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- How To's & Quick Tips >
- How To: Season Cast Iron
How To: Season Cast Iron
The king of the kitchen, cast-iron cookware gives you crispy fried food, a succulent sear on your steak, and a quick cleanup after cooking—as long as you season your pan correctly. Fortunately, these four steps make the process really easy.
Cast iron, properly cared for, can last a lifetime at least in the kitchen. Apart from cleaning your pan or skillet after each use, seasoning cast iron ranks as the most important step you can take toward maintaining this type of cookware. Seasoning is a simple process that leaves a natural nonstick coating, one that makes cooking with cast iron not only more enjoyable, but also much more convenient. How do you season cast iron? Continue reading to learn the steps involved!
To get started, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit before washing the cast iron thoroughly. Use a combination of warm water and dish soap to eliminate any residue that’s built up over time. Once done, rinse with water and dry the pan or skillet with a soft cloth. In the future, remember not to use dish soap when cleaning your cast iron, as the soap diminishes the effect of seasoning. After use, simply rinse the cast iron with water and wipe it down with a kitchen cloth.
Next, choose an oil to use in your seasoning. Some experts say that refined flaxseed oil does the best job. It’s far from being the cheapest option, though. Crisco or lard work well, but really any vegetable oil will do, so long as its smoke point—the temperature at which it starts to smoke—is above your normal cooking temperature. Above all, make certain not to use any oil that boasts a strong flavor.
Pour in the oil of your choice, spreading it around to evenly coat the pan or skillet. For best results, rub in your chosen oil with either a cloth or paper towel. Cover every square inch of the cooking surface.
Place the cast iron, upside down, into the preheated oven, resting it on the oven rack with a piece of aluminum foil beneath it. The goal here is for the pan or skillet to heat until the oil has reached its smoke point. Then and only then is there a chemical reaction that results in the desired nonstick coating. Different oils have different smoke points. To bring flaxseed oil to its smoke point, turn your oven up to its maximum heat seating. If you’re using vegetable oil, keep it at 350 degrees. Bake the cast iron for about an hour, then turn off the heat and allow the metal to fully cool before removing it.
Eventually, the cast iron will need to be seasoned again. To put that off for as long as possible, remember not to use dish soap when cleaning the cookware. Simply rinse it off with water, wiping it down with a soft cloth, not a scourging pad. Add a little salt for scrubbing power, if necessary. When the cast iron surface becomes dull and sticky, you’ll know that the time to season has come again.
- Painting >
- How To: Paint Fabric
How To: Paint Fabric
Paint can transform any surface, even walls. Here, brush up on the tips and techniques that can help you paint fabric like a pro.
We’re no strangers to the power of paint. It brightens dark rooms, adds interest to walls, and transforms furniture. It’s no surprise that paint can work wonders on textiles too. Though you might never have considered it before, you can introduce color and pattern to a wide array of fabric items in the home, including but not limited to furniture upholstery, curtains, throw pillows, wall hangings and more. Continue reading to learn how easy it can be to paint fabric successfully.
The first thing to know is that fabric paint comes in two main varieties—opaque and transparent. The former is more commonly used and behaves similarly to the wall paints you’re used to, while the latter helps do-it-yourselfers achieve subtle more effects, particularly when applied to light-colored fabrics.
In addition to choosing a type of fabric paint, you must also decide which tools to employ. While brushes, rollers, and sprayers are par for the course in wall painting, a different set of options are more useful here. As is so often the case in home improvement, the best tool for the job depends on the task at hand.
- Markers and pens are easy to work with and offer the sort of precision that lends itself well to detail work.
- Sprays work best in situations when you’re coating large swaths of fabric (e.g., curtains).
- Brushes are more difficult to master, but they allow you greater freedom in the mixing of colors. Different styles of brushes are suited to different purposes. While flat, so-called “shader” brushes create broad lines optimal for filling in a design, thinner brushes execute the long, thin strokes necessary for outlines.
- Stencils can help even inexperienced fabric painters achieve sharp edges and uniformity. For lettering and repetitive patterns, they are highly recommended.
- Sponges leave a more bubbled texture than markers and brushes create. In some cases you may want to keep that texture; in other cases, you may wish to minimize the texture by layering on additional paint. Use a sponge for a medium-to-large fabric surface areas. It’s also recommended for work with a stencil.
Gather the fabric you’re planning to paint. Both natural and synthetic fibers can be painted, though keep in mind that paint spreads most easily on lightweight fabrics an least easily on heavy materials like cotton duck. If the fabric must remain washing machine-friendly, be sure to put it through the washer at least once prior to painting, using regular detergent but skipping the fabric softener. Shrinkage is likely to ruin a fabric paint job, so the goal is to get the initial shrinkage out of the way.
Place a piece of cardboard directly beneath the fabric to be painted, thereby protecting against bleed-through. To keep the fabric from shifting while you work, secure it to the cardboard by means of pins.
Start painting the fabric at its top, working your way down section by section. Doing so helps minimize the risk of accidentally smudging any areas you’ve already painted. Once finished, to be on the safe side, let the paint dry for a little longer than the amount of time recommended by the manufacturer.
STEP 6 (optional)
Go over the fabric with a hot clothing iron to prevent the paint from coming off in the wash. But rather than bring the iron into contact with the paint, hold it just above the surface, hovering a couple inches above. Alternatively, iron the opposite, non-painted side of the fabric, if possible, for identical results.
• Practice your design on surplus fabric before you begin painting in earnest. That can give you a feel for how the paint takes to the fabric, while allowing you to gain comfort using your chosen paint tools.
•Wash your hands and tools thoroughly between coats, if you decide multiple applications are needed.
• To avoid mishaps with a stencil, remove it along with any tape as soon as possible after painting.
- Historic Homes & More >
- The Resurrection of a Gloriously Derelict Castle in France
The Resurrection of a Gloriously Derelict Castle in France
An Australian couple has begun the long journey toward restoring Chateau de Gudanes, a centuries-old house, long-neglected in the south of France.
Five years ago, Karina and Craig Waters—a tax accountant and a urologist, respectively, in Perth, Australia—began looking for a vacation home in the south of France. Karina says she envisioned “a small farmhouse,” the sort of simple, “shabby-chic” cottage so often invoked in fantasies of French countryside living. On their real estate hunt, however, the Waters couple visited a long string of homes whose rural charm had been replaced by modern luxuries. Whereas they had set out seeking worn, weathered floorboards and casually planted, wonderfully scented gardens, they found sleek, blemishless finishes and infinity pools.
That was when their son, 15 years old at the time, stumbled onto an Internet listing for what appeared to be, from the aerial views provided, a grand, albeit ramshackle, estate. Intrigued, Karina and Craig decided to check out the chateau on their next trip to France—and they did, driving 500 miles in a single day to arrive at its iron gates. What they discovered there in Chateau-Verdun, a tiny town perched high in the Pyrenees, utterly captivated the couple. ”We fell in love with this chateau and the region,” she says. After two long years of negotiations, the Waters family finally purchased the 96-room Chateau de Gudanes.
Move-in condition? Not quite. During a prolonged period of neglect, several portions of the roof had collapsed into the 43,000-square-foot building. Many floors in the five-level structure had caved in too. On their first survey of the property, the couple wore hard hats, and for safety reasons could walk only into a handful of rooms. Trees were growing inside, and everywhere there was dirt, rotten wood, rust, mold and mushrooms. Still, amid the rubble, Karina and Craig saw ample evidence of the chateau’s former glory—centuries-old stained glass, painted frescoes, gilt-framed mirrors, ornamental plaster, and artisan-carved woodwork.
Chateau de Gudanes dates back to the mid-1700s. Its architect, Ange-Jacques Gabriel, was the most prominent of his time. His high-profile commissions included the Place de la Concorde, a major public square in the French capital city, as well as the Petit Trianon, built for Louix XV’s mistress, Madame de Pompadour, on the grounds of Versailles. In its heyday, the Chateau de Gudanes hosted lavish parties frequented by the cultural elite, including Voltaire.
Once the Waters family took ownership and work got under way, more of the chateau’s history began to emerge. For instance, Karina and Craig had assumed that nothing remained of the medieval fort that originally stood on the site. It was believed to have been destroyed in the late 16th century, during the French Wars of Religion. As workers began digging, however, they soon uncovered two of the fort’s towers. They later discovered a 10-foot-deep hole in the floor, which lead to a previously unknown, largely inaccessible portion of the basement. Karina thinks it may have been an escape for the owners during World War II.
So far, much of the effort has gone into removing—by hand, pulley, and cart—the mixed debris that had accumulated during the building’s abandonment. In addition, steel I-beams have been installed to replace rotted the wood joists that once ran under floors of layered lime and flagstone. It’s deliberate, slow-going work, primarily because the couple intends to restore the chateau, not completely redesign it.
On the blog that she began to chronicle the project’s progress, Karina writes, “Our aim is to tread lightly and gently, to preserve the atmosphere and authenticity of the Chateau and region as much as possible. [The Chateau] will be renovated but her rawness, wear and history will not be erased…”
With the help of an architect and the cooperation of the French architectural preservation authority, Monuments Historiques, Karina says, “We’re developing a plan to give the Chateau a sustainable future.” Opening the house to the public is definitely part of that plan, but the details are, for the moment, fuzzy.
Would there be a café, guest rooms, outdoor concerts, community events? None or all of those? The Waters family hasn’t decided. One thing is certain: “The Chateau won’t be a pretentious museum piece.”
For a bird’s-eye perspective on the Chateau de Gudanes, its grounds, and the surrounding area, don’t miss this high-definition video, captured by a camera-equipped aerial drone!
J. Michael Welton writes about architecture, art, and design for national and international publications. He also edits and publishes an online design magazine at architectsandartisans.com
- How To's & Quick Tips >
- Weekend Projects: 5 Ways to Make a Snow Sled
Weekend Projects: 5 Ways to Make a Snow Sled
Whether you're planning on tackling bunny hills or serious slopes this season, there's a DIY sled built for the ride. Check out these five favorites, and get ready for your next snow day.
Mere days away from the official start of winter, we’re eagerly anticipating some of the activities that only snowy weather affords. At the top of the list? Sledding. We’ve always loved the simple thrill of coasting down a hillside, and introducing children to the experience is magical. While sleds of all sorts are readily available for purchase, creating your own can be a test of ingenuity that’s fun for all ages. Scroll down to see five favorite DIY sled designs now!
1. START WITH A STOOL
Can you believe this DIY sled used to be an IKEA stool? We’ve seen IKEA hacks before, but this one might take the cake. Perhaps most impressive is how it uses every piece of the IKEA stool—plus a few 3D-printer-generated plastic parts! Though it may not be a family-friendly project, it’s certainly an inspiration to turn a creative eye to furniture you already have on hand.
2. ACHIEVE A PIPE DREAM
No fancy-pants parts needed here. PVC plumbing pipes, low-cost and readily available, combine (via nuts and bolts) with half-inch plywood to make a DIY sled that, at least according to its creator over on Instructables, steers better than the molded plastic variety you’ve likely seen on the slopes in the past. Give it a try!
3. KNOCK ON WOOD
Wood shipping pallets have so many great qualities. They’re free of charge, ubiquitous, and endlessly versatile—and they also happen to come preassembled as sled-like platforms. Armed with basic tools, a competent DIYer needs to make only a few strategic modifications to complete the job. For best results, sand the contact points and add paint to reduce friction.
4. LEAVE A PAPER TRAIL
Ah, cardboard—a classic makeshift sled material, right up there with cafeteria lunch trays. With a sleek profile made possible and fortified by packing tape, this enclosed toboggan features extra layers of cardboard at its base, strategically positioned there to keep the sled from getting soggy too quickly. Smart.
5. TRY A 2-FOR-1 RIDE
Among the countless creative projects over on Built by Kids, we found this rather ingenious approach to a DIY sled. Incorporating scrap wood, hardware, a wheelbarrow bucket, and kid-length skis, the design seems destined to pick up speed, while the rope handle makes it easy to pull the sled behind you.
- Green >
- Bob Vila Radio: Bleach + Vinegar = Toxic
Bob Vila Radio: Bleach + Vinegar = Toxic
Power tools can be dangerous, but so too are combinations between common household chemicals. Do you know which substances not to mix?
When I talk to homeowners about safety, the discussion often centers around using tools and ladders and so forth. But there are a lot of other ways you may be injured in your home, and one of them is by mixing the wrong chemicals.
Listen to BOB VILA ON HAZARDOUS HOUSEHOLD CHEMICALS or read the text below:
You’ve probably heard that you shouldn’t mix bleach with ammonia. That’s true. It produces vapors that can damage your lungs and possibly even kill you, especially if you’re in a confined space.
Add this combination to the “don’t mix” list: bleach and vinegar. When combined, they give off a chlorine vapor similar to the poison gas used against Allied troops in World War I. Bleach shouldn’t be combined with toilet bowl cleaners, either; that combination can also produce toxic fumes.
Finally, steer away from combining highly acidic products with products that are highly alkaline. Mixtures of the two can cause serious chemical burns if they come into contact with your skin.
Before using any household product, it’s best to check the label. Potentially harmful interactions are often listed there.
Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 60 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.
- Major Systems >
- How Does Radiating Heat Operate 25% More Efficiently?
How Does Radiating Heat Operate 25% More Efficiently?
Although it still seems newfangled to many homeowners, radiant floor heating has not only been around for a while, but it also offers an attractive combination of comfort and savings.
Most people assume radiant floor heating costs a fortune. Perhaps that’s because, compared with radiator or baseboard heat, radiant systems are rare. But there’s reason to suppose that in the years to come, radiant heating may enjoy much greater popularity, at least in new construction or homes undergoing renovation, because of its potential to save homeowners money on monthly heating bills. According to a recent study conducted by Kansas State University in conjunction with the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), a radiant system can operate 25 percent more efficiently than a forced-air system. So in a sense, the technology benefits from being the new kid on the block, as it seeks to improve in areas where traditional systems stumble.
1. NO HEAT LOSS
Heat loss occurs through uninsulated walls, attic, or basement space, and also through gaps in windows and around exterior door frames. In traditional heating systems, heat loss can also occur within the system itself, with heat dissipating on the journey between its source (i.e., the furnace) and the home’s conditioned space. In a forced-air system, such heat loss occurs most of all in ductwork, where even misaligned joints can leak to a considerable degree. To maintain a comfortable indoor temperature, therefore, the furnace must work harder and consume more energy to make up for the lost heat. With radiant heat, heat loss isn’t an issue, so you don’t have to pay for the system to work overtime.
2. EVEN DISTRIBUTION
If you’ve ever walked into a heated room, you know that it’s warmest directly next to the radiator, baseboard, or heating vent. The farther you venture from the unit, the more likely you’ll feel the need to turn up the thermostat. By contrast, radiant flooring does not create pockets of warm and cool air; it distributes warmth evenly across the entire room. Neither too hot nor too cold, you remain comfortable enough to leave the thermostat in the money-saving range. Another advantage of even heat distribution: You can place furniture wherever you want, instead of carefully arranging things around the radiators, baseboards, or vents. In other words, radiant heat allows for design freedom, whereas many traditional systems place limits on your options.
3. CONDUCTIVITY COUNTS
Not every radiant heating system maximizes homeowner savings. Yes, the system design alone, no matter the individual components, offers advantages. But the individual components in a radiant system can make a big difference too—and that’s where the products offered by different manufacturers begin to diverge.
In a typical radiant heat setup, hydronic tubes (or electric coils) are embedded within a slab of gypsum concrete, a material that, in its sluggishness, is not perfectly suited to home heating. First of all, it takes a long time to heat up, and homeowners tend not to appreciate the wait. Second, concrete very slowly releases any heat it has gained, so if a homeowner decides the temperature has risen too high, his quickest, most effective recourse is to open the windows to bring down the temperature. That doesn’t sound so terrible, but where savings are concerned in home heating, efficiency counts—and opening windows in winter is the opposite of efficiency!
Warmboard offers innovative hydronic radiant heat panels that hinge not on concrete, but on highly conductive aluminum. Conductivity translates into savings in two ways. First, because the aluminum so effectively transfers heat from the hydronic tubes in the panels to the living spaces in your home, the boiler can heat the water to a lower temperature than other systems would require. Second, you can turn the thermostat down—for instance, when you go to sleep for the night—and when you raise the heat upon waking up, the change registers in minutes. There’s nothing new about adjusting the thermostat, when possible, to save money. But unlike many of its competitors, Warmboard lets you capitalize on the latest energy-efficient technology without forcing you to sacrifice tried-and-true methods.
This post has been brought to you by Warmboard. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.
- Green >
- The Right Way to Dispose of Batteries
The Right Way to Dispose of Batteries
The next time replacing the batteries in an appliances leaves you with a couple spent ones in your palm, you might wonder, "what do I do with these now?" The answer isn't always straightforward. Read on to learn how to properly dispose of all the different types of batteries you might have in your home.
Just think about how many different types of batteries exist. From non-mercury alkalines to lithium-ion rechargeables, there are more than enough options to complicate any seemingly simple trip to the convenience store or home center. Making things even more difficult is that for each type of battery, there’s a different recommended disposal method. Why? Because batteries contain metals and other chemicals that, improperly treated, can be hazardous to the environment. While some batteries can be tossed out with your regular trash, others require special care. For help determining how best to dispose of the batteries you’ve got, continue reading!
In California, it’s illegal to toss any type of battery into the trash. In all other states, however, general-purpose batteries—that is, non-mercury alkaline batteries—can be included with your regular garbage. Most single-use (nonrechargeable), general-purpose alkaline batteries produced after 1996 contain no mercury; Duracell phased out mercury back in 1993. Note that for safety reasons, it’s best not to trash more than one battery at a time; if multiple batteries, each with a little juice left, come into contact with one another in a trash can, they might create a spark that ends up starting a fire.
Recycling options for non-mercury alkaline batteries remain limited, though many local governments offer collection points. Check with yours to find out whether there are any such services in your area. If not, you can always rely on something like the iRecycle Kit from BatteryRecycling.com. The smallest kit, which enables you to mail in five pounds’ worth of batteries, costs $29.95.
Some batteries contain heavy metals—mercury, lead, cadmium or nickel—that can be hazardous if improperly disposed of. Today, only certain types of batteries contain heavy metals:
• Alkaline mercury batteries: Prior to 1996, alkaline batteries were manufactured with mercury. Though production has ceased, such batteries can still be found stashed in junk drawers.
• Mercuric- and silver-oxide batteries: Often found inside things like watches and hearing aids, these “button cell” batteries contain high concentrations of heavy metals and acid-based components.
Heavy metals are no trivial matter; leave their disposal to the pros. In many neighborhoods, regular collection is available at a specially designated facility. Contact your city or town hall for the details.
Used in everything from cordless power tools to digital cameras, rechargeable batteries have become fairly easy to recycle, thanks to a nonprofit organization. Call2Recycle has helped to bring more than 30,000 drop-off sites to North America. To find the site nearest you, simply call 1-877-2-RECYCLE or use the online locator. The following types of rechargeable batteries are accepted: nickel-cadmium (NiCd), lithium-ion (Li-ion, or LIB), small sealed lead acid (SSLA/Pb), nickel-metal hydride (NiMH), and nickel zinc (NiZn). Recycling not only safely controls heavy metals, but also puts many components back to work in the manufacture of new batteries.
Handle with Care
When disposing of any battery, no matter its type, observe these safety measures:
• Leave the battery packaging intact; do not break the battery open. Doing so constitutes a fire, health, and environmental risk.
• Never burn batteries. When their chemical contents come into contact with fire, the batteries can explode, sending shrapnel flying.
• Wrap dead, expired, or unused batteries in a nonconductive material (for example, packing tape) and keep them away from moisture.
- Interior Design >
- Before & After: A Cozy Reading Nook from Scratch
Before & After: A Cozy Reading Nook from Scratch
Faced with an awkwardly sized staircase landing, this blogger transformed what had become a "drop spot" into a real destination.
Update a 114-year-old, 1,200-square-foot Dutch Colonial to meet the needs of a young family? Challenge accepted, said lifestyle blogger Tabatha Muntizinger. But she would do it, in her own words, “without sacrificing any fun or creativity.” With two children and seven pets, Muntzinger—the creative force behind Turn Right at Lake Michigan—decorates in a style that both celebrates and is honest about life as it’s lived in under her roof. Earlier this year, when she set out to redecorate a staircase landing, she eschewed the more formal sitting area for a cozy, family-friendly reading nook. This time of year, we can’t help but dwell on the design details that make a house a home, so we asked Muntzinger for details on how the project came together.
The reading nook fits so snugly into a landing at the top of your stairs. What had been there before?
The space at the top of the stairs was the result of a dormer window. It was incredibly deep—big enough for a twin bed, for sure—but… there wasn’t much purpose for it. For the longest time, we had filled it with some side chairs and a small end table. But over time it just became a really fancy place to leave random things. And then later you’d return to find a cat sleeping on top of those random things.
Why build a window seat?
When we bought the house, I had always envisioned a window seat in the space. I’ve been in love with the idea of one since I was a kid. At one point, my parents toured a house with a window seat, and they didn’t end up buying the house, but I can still remember what it felt like to curl up and feel the sun shine on me. As our family grew, I realized the landing should be functional for all us. The idea for the nook was that it would become a communal space where I could sit and share my love of reading with my kids in a fun yet practical way.
Did the project involve learning any new skills?
I’d certainly never cut up a mattress before or sewn a custom-shaped cover for one…. And this was actually our first foray into using some of Ana White’s DIY plans. To build the reading nook, we actually modified her instructions for making a storage daybed.
So many clever ideas went into this. Which aspect are you most proud of?
Probably the cushion. The challenge was to come up with a seating solution which wouldn’t need constant readjustment and which would be comfortable for up to four people. So I started with the cheapest foam mattress sold by IKEA (it was far cheaper than upholstery foam). After cutting it down to size, the next step was to design a cover that would look good but still be completely washable—because, hi, small children and multiple pets. This was the first time I’d sewn something that I’d completely made up in my head. Luckily, it all turned out so much better than I’d hoped.
What advice would you share with someone who wants to make something similar?
Measure twice, cut once! Also, you’ll probably want a cushion that’s twice as thick as the one you start out thinking would be sufficient.
What do you enjoy most about the reading nook?
Finding my kids curled up on it, on their own, reading from their “library.” That’s exactly what I’d hoped for—to create a fun, practical space for them to fall in love with books and build their imaginations.
How has this makeover changed how your family uses the space?
It’s not just a catchall anymore; it’s truly a gathering place for the family, as we go through the routines of our days. I sit there to braid hair and help brush teeth and fold laundry. I sometimes even sneak there myself, after bedtime, to write blog posts or read. It’s also pretty safe to say that the animals all enjoy it, too. All in all, the window seat has become a wonderful communal space for everyone to lounge and enjoy the simple things—like, each other. Plus, whereas we used to shove linens wherever they’d fit, we now have fantastic storage for extra pillows, bed sheets, and spare blankets.
- Roofing & Siding >
- Bob Vila Radio: Replacing Shingles the DIY Way
Bob Vila Radio: Replacing Shingles the DIY Way
So long as you're comfortable working on the roof, you can replace a missing or damaged shingle on your own, saving the cost of hiring a contractor. Here are a few tips to help you get the job done right.
If you’ve got a broken shingle or two on your roof, it’s easy to repair the problem yourself. Most home centers sell shingles in small batches. Just take a broken shingle with you so you can pick a close match.
Listen to BOB VILA ON REPLACING SHINGLES or read the text below:
Once safely on the roof, gently nudge a pry bar, its full length, under the three tabs in the row of shingles just above the damaged shingle. Then use the claw on the pry bar to remove the nails you see under the tabs.
Do the same for the next row of shingles, the one that’s just above. Once you remove those two rows of nails, you’ll be able pull out the damaged shingle. Next, slide the new shingle into place and fasten it with six roofing nails, one under each of the tabs you loosened.
To finish off, squeeze a dab or two of roofing cement under the tabs of the new shingle, plus under all the tabs you loosened at the start. Apply a little pressure to ensure the tabs make solid contact with the cement.
Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 60 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.
- Lawn & Garden >
- Never Shovel Snow Again After This One Improvement
Never Shovel Snow Again After This One Improvement
If you've grown sick and tired of shoveling snow time and time again through the long winter months, perhaps it's time to consider the next best thing to a driveway that shovels itself.
Though winter’s worst storms are likely yet to come, many homeowners around the country have already had ample opportunity to grow tired of shoveling snow. After all, it’s a tedious, time-consuming, back-breaking chore, one that’s regrettably unavoidable in cold climates. But wait—is it truly unavoidable? No. There is another way, thanks to an innovative snow-melting system that enables equipped driveways and walkways to automatically melt away accumulated snow on their surfaces.
Manufactured by SunTouch, the ProMelt line of heating cables and mats operates similarly to radiant-heat flooring installations. The system heats from below, and because it’s specially designed for use outdoors, the electric heat works to melt away not only powdery snow, but also stubborn ice. The cables “are generally activated by special snow sensors,” says Daniel O’Brian, a technical expert from online retailer SupplyHouse.com. That means, once the snow begins to stick, the system can automatically click on. You don’t have to think about it if you don’t want to, but “manual controls are often an option as well,” O’Brian confirms.
Manual control can you help you minimize the operating cost of a heated driveway and/or walkway. It’s difficult to estimate the seasonal expense involved, because, as O’Brian points out, “electricity rates and the severity of winter storms change from location to location.” In addition to the cost of operation, there’s also the initial investment to cover the components and their installation. O’Brian notes that snow-melting systems are ideal for new home construction, or for homeowners who plan to install a new driveway or walkway. “Retrofitting them is virtually impossible, unfortunately,” because the mats must run under or within the paving.
ProMelt snow-melting mats range in size from 2′ x 5′ to 2′ x 56′; prices start at $190. Customizable configurations allow them to be used with the majority of today’s popular driveway and walkway materials—concrete, asphalt, pavers, and tile among them. Installation methods differ somewhat from material to material. Beneath pavers and stone, for instance, the mats are set into the substrate sand. In concrete, the mats are affixed to wire or rebar that’s suspended into the middle of the pour.
ProMelt mats rely on oxygen-free copper heating elements and are made to be flexible and long lasting. Thermoplastic insulation guards against corrosion and temperature resistance, while a tough polyurethane outer jacket adds further protection against chemicals and abrasion. Though the mat configuration facilitates installation, in certain outdoor configurations it may be preferable to use “loose” heating cables, as these can be worked around bends and other such obstacles. Both types are available through SupplyHouse.com, and both can be handled by contractors or ambitious DIYers.
This post has been brought to you by SupplyHouse.com. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.