Monday, 31 October 2011

Top 5 Kitchen Mistakes to Avoid


Kitchen Planning - The Top 5 Mistakes to Avoid By Stuart Heyes



As many people are aware, the kitchen can often become the social hub of the home. Where children stay in their rooms and parents sit about in the living room, the one place they all congregate is the kitchen. So any poorly made choices in the design stages can make for a poor social space.
Remember the Kitchen Triangle! Unless you are a big kitchen design fan, you may not have heard the expression, but basically, the triangle represents the route around your sink, fridge freezer and oven. The idea is that the routes between these should be as short as possible and completely unobstructed.
If you're rushing around cooking a meal, and you keep catching your hips or thighs on a jutting island or counter corner, you'll want to tear it out. This is why these routes need to be wholly accessible at all times, you'd be surprised just how many times you move between this in one session.
Islands! They look great and fancy, but can sometimes be unwieldy and impractical in smaller spaces. Islands work better in one wall and L-Shape kitchens with plenty of footfall space. In U shape and more complicated kitchens, you need to ensure that you have the space, otherwise you'll violate the aforementioned 'kitchen triangle' rule and you'll find yourself becoming incredibly stressed when cooking larger meals.
Lighting! This is possibly the most common mistake in kitchen design, more specifically the absence of task lighting, the lighting that allows you to properly see what you are doing. Sometimes the best task lighting comes from overhead task lights and under-cabinet spot lighting. As long as it is a bright light source that is not obscured by your own shadow, you should be able to work comfortably at the task at hand. Ambient lighting can bring a kitchen design to life and add that wow factor to impress your friends, but do not splash out on this at the expense of task lighting; otherwise you'll be left with a pretty, but impractical cook space.
Consider the bin! Not something you typically associate with amazing kitchen design, but you'll be glad you considered it. First of all, recycling is becoming increasingly common, so you would do well to cater for it by installing a sectional trash cabinet that allows you to divide up your rubbish; otherwise you'll be doing it by hand, outside and in the rain for much longer than is strictly necessary. This should also be placed closest to the door. If your kitchen backs out onto a garden where you keep your bins, place it close by. If you keep your bins out front, place your rubbish cabinet nearer to the door, so you have less distance to travel and thus, less space within which to make a mess if a bag splits.
Keep it comfortable! When you're not cooking, you're sat down eating or drinking. So if you have an island, consider turning part of it into a breakfast bar; then you can pair it with space saving seating, such as leather bar stools or stackable chairs.
Kitchen Planning is critical, if you get it wrong at the planning stage, the entire project will likely go awry... Or in the very least you'll gradually become disheartened with the amazing, yet dysfunctional space you have created.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Four Ways to Reduce Home Heating


Four Ways to Reduce Home Heating Bills During the Fall and Winter 

By Samantha Walton









There are a number of simple yet effective ways to save energy and money when it comes to heating your home. Continue reading to learn four ways to reduce home heating bills during the fall and winter months.
1. Ensure Sufficient Insulation
Installing insulation is one of the best ways to reduce heating bills, because it works to protect your home's interior heated air. How? Insulation limits heat transfer through a home's ceiling, attic, walls, floors, basement, and crawl space. A home that is sufficiently and properly insulated will experience far less heat loss than an uninstalled home, resulting in significantly lower home heating bills.
The recommended insulation R-value ranges from R30 to R60 for an uninsulated attic and R19 to R30 for floors. Speak with a certified NC insulation contractor about your home's insulation needs. Remember that different homes and climates require varying R-values and types of insulation (e.g. spray foam, rigid foam, blown foam, fiberglass). But in general, when it comes to insulation, more is better!
2. Seal Cracks Along Windows and Doors
Many homeowners assume that having sufficient insulation will solve all air leakage problems in their home. Wrong! Even a home with the best insulation will incur hefty heating bills if the cracks along windows and doors are not properly sealed. In an unsealed home, your costly heated air will leak outside through cracks, while frigid outdoor air seeps into the space. This results in massive home heating bills and an uncomfortable, cold house.
If your home often feels "drafty," contact a certified air sealing contractor as soon as possible! Doing so will drastically reduce home heating bills during the fall and winter months and make your home feel much cozier and comfortable during the winter.
3. Repair Leaking or Clogged Air Ducts
When it comes to costly home heating bills, leaking or clogged air ducts are often the culprit. If your home has a forced-air heating system, it uses air ducts to transport the heated or cooled air throughout the home. If, however, the air ducts are clogged with debris or are poorly connected, you're wasting a lot of energy and money. In fact, clogged or leaking air ducts can cause up to 35% of a home's heated air before it even reaches the air vents. This means you're paying a lot of money for heated air that you aren't able to enjoy.
4. Install an Energy-Efficient Furnace
Similar to the relationship between insulation and air sealing, an inefficient furnace will continue to wreak havoc on home heating bills even if your ducts are in a row. Such interlocking systems perfectly illustrate that a home is a cohesive unit -- each part dependent upon another to reach maximum energy-efficiency.
If your furnace is more than 10 or 15 years old and/or has a low AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency) rating below 85%, it's definitely time for an upgrade. You'll notice an immediate difference both in your heating bills and in your home's air quality. To ensure maximum efficiency and savings, though, remember that your home's air ducts must be working properly!
To increase comfort in your home, use less energy, help the environment, and reduce home heating bills, contact a certified home heating contractor today
!

Friday, 28 October 2011

Should You Use A Contractor To Paint Your Home?


Why You Should Use A Contractor To Paint Your Home By Eric Moore

Many people choose to hire a contractor to paint their homes. Usually the decision comes down to time and the finished results. To guarantee a long-lasting, durable paint finish on your home, you need to hire a professional to do it. It's a combination that means lower costs over time.

House painting requires a lot of work. This work is mostly tedious chipping, scraping, and sanding in order to properly prepare the surface for paint. It's very time consuming as well. Compared to the cost of materials alone, hiring a professional appears expensive, but once the time is factored in, it is likely to seem a bargain.
Of course, it's also important to find a quality pro. use The Trades Network. Talking to your neighbors who've recently painted their homes about the contractor they might have hired is a good first step towards finding a good painter. Find out who your neighbors used and what they thought of the pro's services and quality of work.
Ask the following questions of your sources: 
-Did the professional do quality work at a fair price?
-Did the contractor take steps to avoid damage to unpainted surfaces?
-How reliable was the professional and did he or she finish on schedule?
-Was a written warranty offered to guarantee the work?
These four questions will tell you whether the painter was a contractor or just pretending to be. A good professional will not only be bonded and insured against any damage that might be caused during the painting of your home, but will also take steps to avoid causing that damage whenever possible. A real pro will always be on time and have a good schedule to finish when promised, barring unforeseen circumstances or problems.
Once you have a small list of contractors, contact them to get an estimate. Compare that to quotes from at least 3-4 of their competitors to get an idea how fair the price is. Most likely, a fair price was offered. Ask questions during the estimate process to find out about included warranties and expected time frames for work. It's also a good idea to ask about the paint to be used and whether they will provide it or if you should purchase your own. Most contractors will include the paint in their estimates, but will not always quote the highest-quality paint available.
Once the job begins, try to stay involved without getting in the painter's way. Unless asked to do so, don't "lend a hand." If you want to offer labor as part of the deal, make this an up front offer and don't be afraid to be rejected. These offers often make professionals leery, and usually for good reason. It's recommended that you only offer to help when asked, such as to hand up tools or bring refreshments as a courtesy rather than be hands-on involved with the painting itself. Many painters will have insurance or warranty requirements that don't allow the homeowner or unpaid helper to be involved. You should respect that.
You'll see why hiring a professional was a good decision once you see the results. Nothing beats a craftsman's quality work.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Three Energy Saving Bulbs


Three Energy Saving Bulbs Proving Popular With Modern Home Owners By Iain Jenkins

















Helping the environment is something that every home owner is happy to be a part of. This explains in part the reason for the rapid growth of energy saving bulbs on the market, a lighting option that drastically reduces the amount of electricity consumed in the home, and therefore the energy drained from the environment around us all.
The energy saving option is so popular, in fact, that the simple household light bulb seems to be fading away. Instead, bulbs for cluster lamps, colour alternating LED lights and the intriguingly named dusk to dawn bulbs have found their way onto the modern houseware shopping list.
Of course, the advantages of all energy saving lights is easy to imagine, but for a variety of reasons, modern home owners have their favourites. We have compiled a list of three of the most popular and more advanced types available on the market, namely LED bulbs, CFLs, and sensor light bulbs.
LED Bulbs
When it comes to lighting efficiency, it is difficult to beat LED lights. This is because the energy consumption of these bulbs is exceptionally low, with the life span of a typical LED as much as 100,000 hours. That is as much as 20 times the life of a regular household incandescent light. In fact, it is likely that if an LED light is turned on and never turned off, a new born baby will have completed primary school before the light dies. For this reason, LED bulbs are preferred for jobs where a light is expected to be on most, if not all, of the time. Their energy efficiency rate is 80 per cent, which means that 80 per cent of the electricity consumed is turned to light, and only 20 per cent lost. An incandescent light, however, is the other way around, with 20 per cent converted into light.
As a result, LED bulbs are preferred where the sheer number of lights would otherwise mean an exceptionally large electricity bill, such as multi storey office buildings, even large hotels where the corridor lights must be on every night. In the home, they are often used in security lights.
CFL Bulbs
However, the most effective low energy bulbs are compact fluorescent lamp bulbs, or CFLs as they are commonly abbreviated to. They are basically fluorescent bulbs, but with a greater degree of energy efficiency and a greater versatility in terms of the applications they can be used in. The tube, for example, can only be placed in a dedicated fixture.
The key element to CFL bulbs is the small amount of mercury vapour that is contained within the glass. This vapour glows when electricity runs through it, giving off an ultraviolet light that we cannot see, but which actually stimulates the phosphorous coating that ultimately produces the light.
The important factor is that stimulating the phosphorous coating in this way requires less electrical energy than other lighting methods. In fact, CFLs use around 25 per cent of the energy that incandescent bulbs use, and have a life span 15 times that of the traditional incandescent option.
Sensor Light Bulbs
One of the most impressive advances in lighting technology has been the development of sensor bulbs, which are CFL bulbs that can switch on when daylight has receded and switch off when daylight is restored. The sensor simply reads the degree of natural daylight that exists, and reacts accordingly.
This kind of bulb is generally used in places where light is required 24 hours a day, like an alleyway or a loading bay in a busy warehouse facility, perhaps. However, they are available too in household versions that are small but bright and perfect for use over a backdoor or over the back garden patio for security purposes. These bulbs, often available in a spiral design, can provide 100 watts of light from just 20 watts of power, making them effective energy saving options.
Understandably, these bulbs are more commonly known as dusk to dawn light bulbs, obviously because they turn on automatically at dusk and stay on until automatically switching off at dawn. Still, they play no small role in reducing electricity consumption, like every other light bulb design with the environment in mind. The growth in popularity of energy saving bulbs cannot be considered a major surprise, given the awareness people generally have of the world around them. And, we can be certain that as the decades go by, even greater energy saving technologies will be incorporated into the lights we use at home.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Choosing Bathroom Vanities- Top 3 Most Common Mistakes


Choosing Bathroom Vanities  By Jessie T Hosler

For a bathroom to be fully functional, bathroom vanities may be added. But be careful when you are choosing which bathroom vanity set to place in your own bathroom. There are errors that will spell the difference between an appropriate cabinet and an unsuitable one.
Wrong type. This is the first error that you should avoid. Many buy their bathroom vanity sets because they are cheap or look cute. But you have to remember that this furniture will not stand alone in your bathroom. There are other fixtures and there are other parts of the bathroom that it should complement well for it to be considered a good part of the room.
This can be attributed to the color and material used. You can have a bathroom that is made from wood with subdued lighting fixtures. But if your vanity set is made from metal and it is painted with enamel, this will ruin the design that you have already created with the wall, the floor, or your bathroom stall.
Also, the functionality of your vanity set can be defeated if it does not have the right number of sinks. Although this is not really a prerequisite to your purchase, having two sinks when two people are using the vanity set will help. And it is very practical. You will be able to save a lot of time. However, if you have a set that has two sinks but only you are using that furniture, the purpose is very much defeated.
Wrong size. There can be a mistake in the size of the vanity when it is not appropriate to the size of the bathroom. If you have a large bathroom, it will follow that your vanity set is large as well. When your bathroom is small, the furniture will look nicer if it is small-sized as well. The right proportions will make it better to look at. A big vanity in a small room will seem to take all of the space in the room. At the same time, a very small one in a sizable room will look dwarfed.
Size can also be an issue related to the use of the vanity. If do your make up in front of your vanity set and you use a lot of products, it will be beneficial if you have a large vanity. This will give you more space to work with. A family composed of several members can also benefit from a large set as there will be enough space even if several members use it at the same time.
Poor quality. Many people consider the price of the product. This is okay. However, if you overlook the quality of the product just because it is sold at a very low price, you will end up paying more in the end. Remember that vanity sets are placed inside the bathroom where humidity is usually high. So, you would want your vanity set to be as sturdy as possible. Make sure that the product that you will choose is reasonably priced based on its quality and durability.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Floor Heating System


Keep Your Home Warm With a Radiant Floor Heating System

By Ed Wolfe Jr



Many homeowners are considering installing a radiant floor heating system for efficiency and comfort. Because it is quiet and economical, radiant heating is a great choice for homeowners who want comfortable warmth combined with the cost savings of energy efficiency. When compared to traditional heating methods, this new technology offers plenty of benefits.
Radiant heating uses forced heated liquid or electric wires through the panels that are located under your flooring. The floor itself absorbs radiant heat from its heating source until the floor itself becomes the same temperature as the heat source. The heat rises and warms up the room evenly. Because there is no moving air, people with allergies to dust and other environmental contaminants will not suffer as much.
Convection is the method through which the system distributes the heat. This is the natural heat circulation caused by heat rising from the floor. Radiant floor heating systems are different from the radiant panels or traditional radiators that are used in walls and ceilings. Radiant floor space heating provides a room with uniform temperature from the floor to the ceiling. Traditional heating methods create warmer and cooler areas throughout the room.
Radiant heating has a number of advantages over conventional heating systems. Radiant heat works silently and does not require ductwork or above-floor radiators. It is generally more efficient than forced-air heating because there is no energy loss through existing ductwork. Hydronic (liquid-based) systems also use very little electricity to circulate the warm fluid through the tubes. A hydronic system can also be heated from a variety of energy sources, including gas boilers, oil boilers, solar water heaters, geothermal - or a combination of these heat sources.
Dense masonry type materials, such as ceramic tile, are the most effective type of floor covering when installing a new radiant heat system. Tile conducts heat well from beneath the floor and adds to the overall thermal mass of the system. Vinyl, linoleum, wood can also be also used, though they may not work as effectively as tile.


Ideal locations to incorporate radiant heating include bathrooms, entryways and kitchens. Tile, slate, marble and even hardwood floor coverings are cold to step onto with bare feet. With a radiant floor heat system installed under the floor of these areas, you won't need to worry about cold floors again.
If you are considering replacing your traditional forced air heating system, now is the time to do so! With energy prices on the rise, you can start to save sooner than later.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Home Improvement Project Budgeting & Finance



How To Budget And Finance Your Home Improvement Project

Before you undertake any home improvement project, you should start off by having some home improvement companies come out to your house to inspect and evaluate what home renovations you want done, then have them present you with the home improvement estimates.

If you only rely on one or two quotes you risk paying too much for the job. You should get some home improvement estimates from several companies to get a feel for how much you should be paying for the home improvement job. You will also get a good idea of what to budget for the home improvement job. It is important to keep a budget, as it keeps you from overspending and within budget. 

If your home improvement is a big project, you should consider getting a loan from loan companies to finance your home renovation project. This type of financing is now easier than ever to apply for. If you are working then obtaining financing should not be too difficult as long as you can afford the repayments on the loan. Before approving the loan, loan companies usually need to check your credit and see if there are any defaults or non payment in your credit report.

The easiest way to search for home improvement loans is to have a broker search for the best possible deals and loan providers. Ask the broker to seek out which loan companies offer the best deal on the amount you would like to borrow. Of course, you should select the loan company that offers the lowest APR (annual percentage rate).

No matter what type of renovation you want to do, most loans can cover it. Loan companies do ask you to specify the type of improvement you want to do to make sure you are not over borrowing. Loan companies usually give out secured loans, which are loans secured on your house. However, if you have an excellent credit score, you are qualified to apply for unsecured loans.

Entering into any loan agreement with a loan company is a serious responsibility and you have to make sure you are on time with your payments and do not fall behind, or your house is in jeopardy.

Taking out a loan is a serious decision and something you should give serious thought to. Once you decide to apply, your improvement project will be underway, and you will have a beautiful home to look forward to.

The best part is no matter the amount of money you decide to spend on renovations you always see it increase into home appreciation.


Thursday, 20 October 2011

Improvement Projects That Increase Your Home Value The Most

Best Improvements That Increase the Value of Your Home
By Melinda Pulliam


Whether you plan to remain in your current home or are planning to move, you may be interested in carrying out some home improvement projects either to enhance your enjoyment of your home or its potential resale value. Even if you are not planning to sell your home in the immediate future, it is always a good idea to consider how the home improvement projects you choose will affect your home's resale value if you ever do decide to sell.


Want to know how savvy investors are increasing property value? Here are a few upgrades that increase the selling price:


Flooring


Wood flooring, if it is in good condition, is a hot commodity. Having floors refinished for resale is a growing trend in today's market. Installing wood floors from scratch is very expensive, so laminate is a great alternative for a faster fix; while it will not increase the value as much, it will not be as big of an investment either.


If you have carpet in your home, it is imperative that it is clean and in good condition when you are trying to sell. Move-in ready homes that have recently replaced carpets tend to sell a lot faster than those which don't. For tile floors, make sure there are no chipped or missing tiles.


Countertops and Cabinets


Countertops are another hot commodity at the moment. Granite or quartz countertops impress buyers and last for a long time. Existing granite countertops should be well maintained and you should have any scratches and damage repaired. If you are having new granite countertops installed, with so many colors and patterns to choose from, it will be easy to find one that will fit well with the rest of the kitchen.


Along with new countertops, new cabinetry and appliances can dramatically increase resale value. Stainless steel appliances and dark wood cabinets can give any kitchen a sleek and modern appearance. Kitchens are the selling point in most homes, and therefore require the most remodeling and upgrading.


Crown Molding


This simple change can add a great first impression to a room. Make sure it is done correctly, as a bad job could hurt you more. Either foam or wood can be used, as the area will be subjected to little wear and tear. While it is almost certain you will get the initial cost back, crown molding will not have dramatic effects on resale. It is simply an additional selling point to impress buyers.


If you are considering a home improvement project and want to be a savvy investor, than consider one of these upgrades.


Post Your Job with The Trades Network and get matched to qualified tradesmen in your area. www.TheTradesNetwork.com

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Tips on Winter Energy Efficiency


Easy Tips on Winter Energy Efficiency
By Yanni Giannaros


We attempt to use eco-friendly and sustainable building materials when it comes to our construction and roofing projects.


Proper insulation, green roofing, and sustainable building materials are all helpful in fabricating structures that work with the environment, rather than against it.


However, every winter many of our customers find themselves spending-and let's face it, wasting-lots of extra money in heating and energy. Of course our first thought relates to efficient and well-insulated walls and roof. We do also go by a great, comprehensive, list of easy tips to keep our customers and friends warm and eco-friendly at the same time.


Sustainable Winterizing Tips

These tips are not only for the ecology, they are also for economy. Never forget that green living saves money along with our planet.



Program Your Thermostat: Having a programmable thermostat is essentially becoming standard fare in most newer homes and home heating systems. However, they mean very little unless you set them for the season. Remember, sunrise and sunset change, and so do your home's heating and AC needs. It is generally recommended that you have a daytime temperature of 68° and a night drop down of 65°.
Check For Drafts: The average American home wastes 5-30% of their energy through drafts. There is no need to heat the world; nature can take care of herself. Do a quick run through of your home checking windows and roofing elements with your hand for drafts and listening closely for telltale whooshing sounds. The other option is to hire a professional to do a quick estimate-many construction companies offer winterizing and efficiency services, often with a free estimate.
Change Your Bulbs: Make the move from incandescent light bulbs to compact florescent light bulbs. While this is not strictly a winter issue, you do use considerably more lighting in the winter, due to shorter days and colder weather. Investing in LED holiday lights is also a great winter lighting tip, because the last longer, are more durable, and use less energy.
Hire Heating Professionals: Many issues related both to the repair of your home heating system and your overall heating efficiency can be solved with simple, professional, maintenance. Once a year or so, have your heating company come out and do a comprehensive check on your system. Most HVAC companies do this service as part of their maintenance contract. Especially when you have an older system, have a professional take a look, because sometimes you will save money and energy installing a new heat pump.
Get An Energy Audit: In much of the country there are plenty of companies, energy companies, and construction companies that offer high quality energy audits for only a fraction of what you stand to lose on your energy bill. Go through, boost basic efficiency, and see what you can do within your budget to make your home greener.
Use Available Tax Credits: Along with an energy audit, utilize Federal, Provincial, and Local Tax Credits set aside for energy efficiency. You may be surprised just how many resources are still available for people who want to upgrade their windows, roofing, and insulation. In many cases you are talking about thousands of dollars. Any professional energy auditor can probably fill you in on popular tax credit programs; and if not, check out websites for all levels of government. A little research could lead to big savings.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Pressure Washing


The Art of PressureWashing
There’s no better way to prepare a house for painting, but be careful you’re not doing more harm than good
BY JON TOBEY




If you read the label on a few different cans of paint, you’ll notice some similarities. One way or another, the instructions will tell you to scrape all loose paint, to repair all damaged areas, and to clean the surface thoroughly. To do the best possible job, I have made pressure washing a regular step for all my finishes.
However, there is an art to pressure washing a house, whether you are doing it to prep for painting or just to clean the siding. It’s like the story of The Three Little Pigs: Too much, and you could blow your house down; too little, and you could huff and puff all day long to no effect.
A pressure washer is not a paint remover
Pressure washers are for washing. They are not for removing paint. If you manage to use a pressure washer as a paint remover, you’re probably washing hard enough to damage the siding, and possibly forcing water inside the walls. The reason to wash the house is to remove dirt, algae, mildew, and oxidation that can cause paint failure. Loose and flaking paint should be scraped and sanded, and damaged siding and trim should be repaired before the house is washed.
Although I tend to wash harder than other contractors, I tailor my technique to each house. On an 80-year-old house, I use less pressure than on a 3-year-old repaint, and I avoid areas that may be prone to leaking. To be sure that water is not getting into walls, I always ask permission to go inside the house, where I check for leakage around doors and windows.
Although a pressure washer is not a paint remover, washing can loosen paint. So when I’m done washing the house, I check for newly loosened or flaking paint before I prime.
Bleach cures the mildew problem
One of the biggest problems with existing paint jobs is mildew. Mildew discolours the paint, causes adhesion problems with new paint, and even can damage the siding. To combat this problem, I apply a 3-to-1 water-to-bleach solution before I pressure wash. I mix the solution in a garden sprayer and apply it to the entire house. When washing houses, I prefer the garden sprayer to the chemical injector on the pressure washer because the sprayer is easy to move around the house and up and down a ladder.
Be careful with the bleach. I’ve never had a problem, but I have heard of people experiencing adverse skin reactions to the mist. If your skin is sensitive, wear long sleeves, pants, a respirator, and rubber gloves.
Although the sprayer and pressure washer both are accurate applicators, be mindful of overspray and run-off. I generally don’t like to use chemicals on surfaces that are not going to be repainted, but if the house has a deck, I usually wash it anyway. Otherwise, I’m very careful not to let the bleach solution drip on decks or wood-shake roofs because the bleach can leave noticeable clean spots.
Cleaning-solution formula
1 part bleach mixed with 3 parts water
In my experience, most plants seem immune to the bleach solution, but to be safe, I cover and uncover them as I go. You also can wet the plants before applying bleach to the house so that any solution that does drip on them is diluted further, and then rinse them again when you are finished with the area.
A pressure washer scrubs and rinses
Applying the chemicals and washing the house always are two separate steps, so after I have made a complete lap around the house applying the bleach solution with a garden sprayer, I fire up the pressure washer and start over.
Most often I use a 15° tip to scrub and rinse the house, removing dead mildew spores and any accumulated dirt and rinsing the chemical residue from the siding. A larger angled nozzle doesn’t have enough scrubbing power, and a lower angled nozzle can damage the siding and trim. I wash the entire house with the nozzle 12 in. to 18 in. from the surface. This distance produces a fan about the width of a clapboard. I make sure to rinse the house thoroughly because any chemical residue left behind may affect the new paint’s adhesion to the surface.
If the house is new or if I’m stripping the surface, I skip the bleaching, but I still pressure wash the house to remove any construction dirt or dust before I paint.
I never begin or end with the pressure washer pointing at the house because the force of the water can throw off my balance and damage the surface. Instead, I start with the wand pointing away from the house.
Then I bring it toward the house, keeping it perpendicular to the siding until I am done with the area. At the end of my reach, I finish with the stream again shooting away from the house. I pressure wash from the top down, working from a clean surface into a dirty one, and always keep the gun perpendicular to the house rather than swinging it in an arc.
You can buy extension poles for washing the higher areas of siding, but I find them exhausting to use and tough on my back. You also never want to shoot water up at the house because doing so can force water underneath the siding. Instead, I wash the house from a ladder so that I can see what I’m doing. Most machines come with a wand that has a pistol-grip handle, which means I can wash one-handed from a ladder. It takes a little practice to get comfortable, but once you are used to working from a ladder, it is a real time-saver. I avoid working from wood-shake or metal roofs because my life depends on it. In Seattle, most of the roofs are made of wood shakes, and getting them wet activates a fine layer of algae that can be treacherous.
JUST ENOUGH SCRUBBING POWER
Four different tips provide an angle for every job.
Wheels and a frame that creates a handle make it easy to move the machine as you work around the house.
Quick-release connectors make it easy to disconnect the hose and gun and add hose extensions.
An in-line chemical injector allows you to use the machine to apply cleaning products.
To clean a house well, you need a machine that can generate around 2500 psi. Anything less just won’t cut it, and stronger machines are overkill. 
Pistol-grip handle lets you work comfortably one-handed.
15o tip
15° fan angle
TIPS CONTROL THE FAN ANGLE AND THE WASHING STRENGTH
Most pressure washers come with a set of tips that produce various spray angles. As you would expect, the different angles control the strength of the water stream.
The 0o tip focuses an extremely powerful jet of water at a narrow area. To avoid damaging the siding, I recommend losing this tip. I use the 15o tip for most of my work. This tip works well 4 in. to 4 ft. from the surface. For a light wash, such as to remove sanding dust, the 25o tip works well. I honestly don’t find a 40o tip to be much of an improvement over a regular garden hose.
The largest tip is usually a specialty tip to use with the chemical injector. A chemical injector is an in-line T that works like those bottles you attach to a hose to spray gardening chemicals. The end of the T goes into a cleaning solution. The high- pressure water coming into the T siphons the chemicals into the machine and mixes themwith the water.
0o tip                             Red
25o tip                           Green
40o tip                           White
Chemical applicator      Black


POSITION IS EVERYTHING 
As you make your way around the house, work from the top down, washing from clean areas to unwashed areas. Instead of shooting water up at the house, work from a ladder and wash downward to avoid forcing water under the siding.
Start with the gun pointing away from the house. Swing the stream into the siding and wash by moving the wand perpendicular to the house.
12 in. to 18 in.
A 15° tip 12 in. to 18 in. from the siding creates a fan equal to the width of one lap of siding.
Drying takes time
The only drawback to pressure washing as part of preparing a house to be painted is that the house then needs time to dry. While the average two-story house takes me about four hours to bleach and wash, it may take several days of warm weather to dry, possibly up to a week if the surface has a lot of bare wood. But a surface that is in good condition may be dry enough to caulk in 24 hours and be ready for paint the next day.
Without a moisture meter, there is no fool-proof way to know when the siding is dry. You have to make an educated guess. Bare wood is darker when wet, so one thing to note is the colour of the dry siding before it is washed; then you will be able to gauge its moisture content by watching the wood lighten as it dries. You also can feel if the wood still has water in it. On a warm day in particular, you can feel the coolness of the water evaporating from the siding. If you don’t feel any temperature change as you move your hand along the siding, the house is ready to go.
Just cleaning?
A pressure washer can be used to clean the exterior of a house even if it is not going to be painted, but the technique is different. On a painted or stained exterior, you need to be careful. I mentioned earlier that I don’t like to use chemicals on a house that I am not going to repaint. This is because the chemicals can discolour and, more important, degrade the existing paint by removing any sheen it has.
For the same reason, I don’t like to use excessive pressure against a house that I’m not going to repaint. If a house simply is dirty or dusty and needs a good rinsing, I use a 25o nozzle, stand back, and let the water do the work. If a house has algae, mildew, or oxidation on it that needs to be removed, and chemicals are the only choice, the house probably should be repainted.
CONNECTION 
Pressure washers are a great way to clean a surface before painting, but they are not good paint removers because the power required to strip paint can damage the house. 
A garden sprayer makes a great chemical applicator. Prior to washing, a bleach-and-water solution is mixed in a garden sprayer and applied to the entire house to remove stains and to kill mildew. A garden sprayer is a lightweight alternative to the in-line chemical injector on the pressure washer.
Pressure-washer tip colours and spray angles
- 0o tip                            Red
- 15o tip                          Yellow
- 25o tip                          Green
- 40o tip                          White
- Chemical or soap tip     Black

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Home Renovation


Home Renovation - 5 Reasons Why We Do It

For most individuals, owning their dream home is one of the greatest gifts in life. These homes provide not only shelter for their loved ones, but also represent a culmination of many years of sacrifice and hard work. Regrettably, even a dream home must cope with time and after awhile will not look appealing due to wear and tear. Whenever this takes place, it is time to think about home remodeling.




The following are five main reasons why people choose to remodel:


Preservation: Regardless of how good a house is constructed, it will be impacted by time and natural elements. During the first couple of years this isn't a real problem, but as the years pass the house could gradually display signs of degradation which is certainly not a pretty sight for any owner. This is the reason why smart homeowners know very well to incorporate plans for Raleigh home renovation in their spending budgets every couple of years. Routine inspection and improvements must be carried out by any homeowner who would like to preserve the structure that they worked extremely hard to construct.



Value: Individuals who are proud of owning their dream house will not even consider selling. However, life is extremely unpredictable and just about anything could happen which might force them to sell. Whenever this occurs, the homeowner would want the highest price for their valuable possession. But this is not always achievable. Actually, many properties which get sold undergo some form of remodeling before purchasers ultimately make the decision to take them from the market.

To break monotony: In most cases, it is really difficult to select a theme or design for a house that you might need for the remainder of your lifetime. Green might be your beloved color, but this might change in the next fifty years. This is the reason why most designers and building experts everywhere generally encourage home remodeling every now and then. This is not suggesting that the house should change in its entirety, but just several restorations and redesigns to enhance the house.

Family: Children grow up easily nowadays and will want a family of their own and you will get grand kids. The things which worked well for junior might not be so pleasing to them down the road. In addition, you also need to think about the safety of your loved ones. Do you have safe floors in the bathroom for children? Would you need to install railings to accommodate visiting parents? All of these problems could be avoided if you carry out home remodeling projects.



Repairs:
Several damages inside the house will not be visible on the outside, so the best way to identify problem areas is to do some remodeling. Even though everything might be working correctly, this is not an indication that there is not a problem.

In the end, when you value your hard work and sacrifice you should never neglect to care for your home. Make an effort to do a little work every couple of years as a part of regular home renovation routine.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Is Your Old Wiring Safe?




Is Your Old Wiring
Safe?
Inspect the electrical panel and exposed wiring to identify safety risks and upgrade options
BY CLIFFORD A. POPEJOY

Some materials used in old houses are better than their modern counterparts, like three-coat plaster versus drywall. When it comes to electrical wiring, though, older does not mean better. Electrical materials and safety devices have improved considerably over the past century. Is old wiring safe? It may be. Or it may present a shock, electrocution, or fire hazard due to deterioration from age, poorly executed modifications, or lack of capacity to meet modern power demands. Older wiring that’s in good shape, however, can continue to serve, and selective upgrades can be used to meet today’s needs.
A visual inspection of the panel and exposed wiring is the first step in evaluating an electrical system. Although I can’t possibly describe everything that could go wrong with old wiring and how to fix it, I can describe some of the signs of an electrical system that needs repair or replacement.
Get to know your old wiring
When electrical wiring first was installed in new homes, the wires were run on a series of porcelain knobs and tubes. In a knob-and-tube system, the splices were soldered and wrapped in electrical tape. Junction boxes, if there were any, were small.


125 YEARS OF ELECTRICITY IN HOMES
1879
Thomas Edison
invents the first practical lightbulb.
1896
An increasing number of fires caused by poor electrical installations leads to the development of the National Electrical Code (NEC).
1910's
Electric light begins to replace gaslight and kerosene lamps. Fuse boxes and knob-and-tube wiring are state-of-the- art. Houses that have electricity are supplied with 30 amps at 120v, and that’s plenty of power.


Armored cable, or BX, also was used in early electrical systems. Originally designed to protect the wires inside, the armor also acted as the grounding conductor in later versions of the cable.
Loomex, a predecessor of the nonmetallic (NM) sheathed cable used today, became available in the late 1920s. Nonmetallic cable first had only two wires with a tar-soaked cotton jacket. Later, a grounding wire and plastic sheath- ing were added. The insulation on the wires was made more heat resistant in 1984. This cable, used widely today, is labeled NM-B.
When current travels through a wire, the friction creates heat that can damage the wire’s insulation. Consequently, all wiring is protected by fuses or circuit breakers. In early electrical systems—5-, 20-, 25-, and 30-amp—Edison fuses provided this protection.
The second generation of over-current protection is the circuit breaker. A circuit breaker is a switch that senses when there’s too much current and opens, interrupting the circuit. The advantage of breakers is that they can be reset after the problem has been fixed. If a fuse melts, it has to be replaced. When I inspect old wiring, I begin at the fuse box or breaker panel.
First, inspect the panel
As greater demands were made on old electrical systems, fuses would melt due to overloads. People often installed an oversize fuse, or in- stalled a coin or metal slug to bypass the fuse and keep it from melt- ing. When I evaluate a fuse box, I take out each fuse and look for a coin or slug. If I find one, I know the wiring on that circuit probably is damaged and needs to be evaluated further before it can be deemed safe.
Likewise, if I find a bunch of 30-amp fuses in a box, there is a good chance the circuits are overfused. Thirty-amp or larger circuits are used for 240v appliances or for subpanel feeders, so there should be only a pair of 30-amp or larger fuses for each of these circuits. I also check the gauge of the wires on each circuit to determine if the fuse size is appropriate. If the homeowner intends to keep the fuse box as the main panel or as a subpanel, I install type-S inserts before I replace the fuses. The inserts make it impossible to install oversize fuses.
RED FLAGS IN THE FUSE BOX AND BREAKER PANEL
1 Coins or slugs behind the fuses. In this case, a penny is not a sign of good luck, but rather a sign that the wiring may have been damaged by the bypassed overcurrent protection.
2 Hacked panel covers. Circuit breakers are designed to work only in specific panels. To save money, mismatched and over- size breakers may have been installed, and the panel cover modified to fit.
3 Rust. On screws, wire, armored cable, or the box itself, rust is a sign of deterioration. Rust can create poor connections and potential safety hazards.
4 Melted wire. Exposed copper wire is dangerous because it can cause arcing, shock, and electrocution. Melted insulation is a sign of overheating.
Homeowners with newer electrical panels sometimes install over-size circuit breakers on overloaded circuits. Using the coffeemaker and toaster at the same time no longer trips the breaker, but it’s likely that the wiring has been overheated and damaged as well.
I’ve also found electrical panels missing covers. This makes resetting a breaker unsafe. And I’ve seen the cover notched to accommodate a breaker not designed for the panel. This is dangerous because breakers and panels work together as a system, and only breakers listed for use in a specific panel are acceptable. If the cover is missing or has been hacked up, I buy a new one or have a new one made, replace the mismatched breaker, and carefully inspect the wiring for that circuit.
Inside all electrical boxes, I look for rusted metal, melted plastic, exposed copper on the hot and neutral wires, and loose connections.
Look for failing wires


1920's
By the end of the decade, two-thirds of American homes have electricity.
1930's
Electrical appliances and tools are common. Armored cable (BX) comes into common use, but knob-and-tube wiring still is widely used. Service grows to 60 amps, 240v, and breakers start to replace fuses.
1940's
Postwar building boom accelerates changes. Loomex, a non- metallic (NM) sheathed cable, is used more widely. Knob-and-tube is phased out because installation is too labor-intensive.


After I inspect the fuse box or breaker panel, I look at all the accessible wiring, usually in the attic and basement. I check for signs of deterioration or of improper modification. If I find bare wire where the insulation has fallen off, or brittle insulation that will fall off soon, I know there’s a risk of shock, electrocution, and fire.
I inspect modifications to knob-and-tube wiring. Original splices should have a neat layer of friction tape and should be sup- ported by knobs on both sides. Non original splices should be made in electrical boxes. Open splices can fail and arc. The National Electrical Code (NEC) does not allow knob-and-tube wiring to be buried in insulation, although some jurisdictions do, as long as it has been inspected by an electrician and there is a sign warning that the wiring is present.
I begin my evaluation of armored cable at places where it’s exposed to moisture because rust is the most common cause of deterioration. I also make sure the fittings that connect the cable to electrical boxes are not rusted or loose. Rust and bad connections impair the grounding path. If I spot rusted cable, I test the quality of the grounding path with a spe- cial tester.
With NM cable, I first check to see if the sheathing is deteriorating or has been chewed by rodents. Then I look in a few boxes to see how
the grounding conductor is terminated. During the transition to grounded circuits, some electricians clipped off the ground wire or wrapped it back onto the sheath. If grounding outlets are installed in a system without a grounding wire, I replace the outlet with a non grounded or GFCI (ground-fault circuit interrupter) receptacle.
Some NM cable installed in the 1960s had aluminum conductors. If I find branch circuits with aluminum wiring, I inspect all connections. Because aluminum expands and con- tracts, it can work itself loose. I make sure that all the switches and outlets are rated for aluminum wiring. I also look inside junction boxes and behind out- lets and switches. Looking in these areas, I can tell if past electrical work was done properly.
Rewire or upgrade?
After I inspect an electrical system, I have to decide whether to recommend rewiring the house or just doing selective upgrades. If much of the cable sheathing or conductor insulation is in bad shape, if there are no fixture boxes, or if testing shows poor connections, I recommend a rewire. If only one or two areas have deteriorating insulation and it looks as if the original installation and any modifications were well done, and the results of voltage-drop testing are acceptable, then selective replacement or upgrading is an option.
Folks often worry about non grounded circuits. If wiring is in good shape and grounded outlets aren’t needed—for three-prong plugs or surge protectors—these circuits are fine.
Older wiring and the small outlet boxes that often were used with it can be difficult to rework. If you need or want to add GFCI outlets, for example, you may find it difficult to install the GFCI in a small box without damaging the old wires. In this case, I install a junction box at a point where the original wiring is in good shape, and splice and run new cable to the outlet. If the outlet box is still too small, I remove the old electrical box and install an old-work box.
If a house’s wiring is in good condition but is overloaded, adding a few new circuits is the best solution. Installing new circuits to serve the kitchen-counter and bathroom outlets, computers, dishwashers, and garbage disposals takes a significant load off existing circuits and costs much less than rewiring the house.


THREE MYTHS ABOUT OLD WIRING
The design, materials, and installation techniques of older wiring are very different from today’s systems. As a result, there are many misconceptions about older wiring. Here are three of the most common myths:
Myth #1 Knob-and-tube wiring must be replaced
When the opportunity presents itself—during a remodelling project, for instance—I usually recommend replacing old wiring. Some insurance companies won’t issue new policies or will charge higher premiums for houses with knob-and-tube wiring. However, if it is inspected, proves to be in good condition, and meets your needs, there is no reason to rewire your house.
Myth #2 Old non grounding circuits are unsafe
Most new appliances, lamps, and tools have two-prong plugs that don’t need a grounded outlet. These two-prong plugs are double-insulated, reducing the chance of shock or electrocution and the need for a grounded circuit. What is unsafe is using an adapter to make a three-prong plug work in a non grounded outlet. If you need to plug in a surge protector or other grounded device, run a new circuit that has an equipment-grounding conductor.
Myth #3 GFCIs won’t work with old wiring
A GFCI receptacle will work fine in an old electrical system even if the circuits don’t have a grounding conductor. The GFCI self-test button will work, too. Because there’s no grounding conductor, though, a plug-in continuity tester won’t trip the breaker.


1950's
Grounding conductor is included in some cable. Grounding receptacles (three-hole outlets) appear, but it’ll be 20 years before their use is universal.
1960's
Plastic insulation is used on conductors in loomex. Fuses still are widely used for 15-amp and 20-amp branch-circuit overcurrent protection.
1970's
NM cable with plastic sheath and full-size grounding wire is introduced. GFCI protection is required for residential bathroom and garage receptacles. Circuit breakers become common.


If I’m adding new circuits, I have to decide if the fuse box or breaker panel has enough capacity and breaker spaces to handle new circuits. If the service is an original 120v, 30- or 60-amp fuse box or breaker panel, or if I need to add branch circuits to a fuse box, I recommend upgrading to a modern panel and 200-amp service. It is also time to upgrade the service when the load calculations show a demand larger than the existing service or when no space is available for new circuits. Finally, if the panel is rusted or if the hot buses are badly pitted, it’s time to upgrade. If all you need is one or two additional 20-amp circuits, and the panel has capacity and breaker space, there’s no reason to replace a panel just because it is old.
Looking at the condition of wires, and their supports and connections, is a big part of inspecting an old electrical system. If you inspect the wiring in your house and still have concerns, call an electrician who has expertise in old wiring and has the special equipment to test the safety and reliability of the circuits and overcurrent protection.


1980's
NM-B (high-temperature insulation) cable first appears. GFCI protection is required for kitchen-counter receptacles within 6 ft. of a sink.
1990's
GFCI protection is required for all kitchen-counter receptacles.
2000's
AFCI protection is required for all bedroom circuits.


SIGNS OF FAULTY WIRING AND BAD UPGRADES
1 Poor additions. Other than knob- and-tube, wires should be in a cable or conduit. Loose current-carrying wires are vulnerable to damage.
2 Missing electrical box. Switches, outlets, and splices should be installed with electrical boxes.
3 Chewed cable. Rodents can be a problem with nonmetallic cable. Chewed cable should be repaired or replaced.
4 Bad connections. During an inspection, all connections should be checked. Because the armor on this BX cable acts as the grounding conductor, a bad connection means poor or no ground.
5 Deteriorating sheathing. The insulation on old wiring can be brittle. Brittle insulation crumbles, exposing wires and creating a hazard. Small areas of deteriorating cable can be fixed; lots of deteriorating cable should be replaced.