Author Archives: Donna Boyle Schwartz

About Donna Boyle Schwartz

Donna Boyle Schwartz is a well-known home furnishings writer and editor, working with leading magazines and newspapers for more than 30 years. Donna is vice president/creative director of DDS Enterprises, a consulting firm concentrating on editorial projects and original research; the company also operates a full-service recording studio specializing in archival audio restoration. An enthusiastic DIYer, she has a shed full of tools and a house full of projects. Check her out on Google+!

How To: Clean Oven Racks

Over time, oven racks become covered with grease, grime, and baked-on food. Here are some (relatively) painless ways to get them clean and shiny again.

How to Clean Oven Racks

Photo: shutterstock.com

Ugh, is there anything worse than a dirty oven? If you use the appliance at all, chances are that baked-on grease, sticky grime, and burnt bits are going to accumulate—maybe not today or tomorrow, but someday. While many homeowners are lucky enough to enjoy a self-cleaning oven, that convenience comes with a consequence. Over time, the self-cleaning functionality ends up damaging the racks. To prolong their life, it’s recommended that, when possible, you clean oven racks the old-fashioned way. Fortunately, by using any of the following methods, you can get the job done quickly and with a minimum of hassle.

Bathtub Bliss

• Fill the tub with very hot water, just enough to cover the racks. Add up to 1/2 cup of dishwashing soap (or up to 3/4 cup laundry detergent). Let sit overnight.

• Alternatively, sprinkle baking soda over the racks, then douse them with vinegar. Once the foaming stops, submerge the racks in hot water and let sit overnight.

• In the morning, scrub the racks with an old dish towel to remove grease and grime, and use an old toothbrush to dislodge any baked-on grime. For really stubborn bits, add salt to the toothbrush to make the scrubbing more abrasive. Afterwards, rinse the racks thoroughly before returning them to the oven.

How to Clean Oven Racks - Detail

Photo: shutterstock.com

Trash Bag Treasure

• Place oven racks into an unused trash bag. Add 1/2 quart of ammonia. Seal the bag and let sit overnight.

• Open the bag in the morning; be wary of ammonia fumes. Rinse the racks thoroughly and replace.

Commercial Cleansers

• Because many cleansers produce toxic fumes, if you plan on using a commercial cleanser, clean oven racks outside.

• Cover a work surface with sheet plastic or newspaper. Lay down the oven racks in a single layer.

• Put on rubber gloves, then spray oven cleaner generously onto the racks. Let sit for about 10 minutes.

• Scrub the racks either with a rag or an old toothbrush. Rinse thoroughly with a garden hose before replacing.

It’s a dirty job, but if in your household, you are the person responsible for the task of cleaning oven racks, take heart: It requires only a few common household items, several hours of soaking, and a little bit of elbow grease to get the job done.


Pro Tips: Wood-Burning Fireplaces

An open hearth with a crackling fire is cozy and romantic, but if you also want it to be a source of practical, economical warmth, consider installing a closed, high-efficiency fireplace unit.

Photo: quadrafire.com

Everyone loves the imagery of chestnuts roasting on an open fire—but wait just a minute! An open fire may be great for chestnuts, but is it the best option for winter warmth? Traditional wood-burning fireplaces certainly look impressive, but operating one of those classic hearths may be costing you a lot of cold, hard cash.

Related: 12 “Different” Ways to Store Firewood

“A decorative wood-burning fireplace is just that: decorative,” explains Harold Wagner, national sales manager for Fireplaces Now. ”More heat goes up the chimney than goes into the room. Lighting a fire in a decorative fireplace is like opening a window and putting a fan in it. With a 2,000-square-foot home, it would only take two hours for that fireplace to suck out all the heat from the house.” For the budget-conscious, experts recommend high-energy-efficiency closed fireplace units.

A high-energy-efficiency fireplace operates up to 90 percent more efficiently. Whereas a traditional fireplace sends heated air up the chimney, in effect completely wasting the heat, a more advanced system distributes that heat, usually by means of a blower. In such an arrangement, excess heat from the fireplace reaches the furnace, from which it travels to other rooms. “These systems are more expensive,” Wagner says, “but they can pay for themselves in five to seven years.”

So long as your fireplace creates and distributes heat effectively, there’s a lot to recommend wood as a fuel source. For one thing, unlike oil or gas, wood is a renewable resource. Rachel Romaniuk, marketing coordinator for Regency Fireplace Products, reminds homeowners that “well-managed forests are a sustainable source of energy that helps us to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” And with prices for nonrenewable fuels on the rise, wood represents an affordable alternative.

Photo: vonderhaar.com

Shopping for a wood-burning fireplace, stove, or insert? Seek out an EPA-certified unit that emits no more than 7.5 grams of particle pollution per kilogram of wood burned. Further considerations include “room size, house type, and climate zone,” says Chad Hendrickson, brand director for Quadra-Fire and Harman at Hearth & Home Technologies. He recommends getting advice from a local dealer, someone familiar with the conditions typical of your geographical area.

Unless you are an experienced do-it-yourselfer, leave the installation to pros. Best qualified are those with National Fireplace Institute certification. Hendrickson suggests contracting with “installers who understand building code requirements and the pitfalls of impractical designs.” Even if you plan to handle some aspects of the job yourself, Hendrickson stresses that “the venting system is a critical area requiring professional involvement for the safety of your family and your home.”

With a high-energy-efficiency fireplace, routine maintenance is a must. Collin Champagne, NFI Master Hearth Professional for eFireplaceStore, summarizes: ”Regularly sweep ashes and frequently inspect the chimney for excessive creosote buildup.” The more wood you burn, the more often your chimney must be cleaned, but as a rule of thumb, you should expect to hire a chimney sweep “at least once per season.”

You might never have thought so, but the firewood used actually matters. Wagner, of Fireplaces Now, says, ”If a consumer burns a lot of low-end wood, they will need more frequent chimney cleaning.” It’s therefore recommended that you stick to good-quality hardwood stored a safe distance from the fireplace.

“With proper installation and maintenance, a wood-burning fireplace can be an economical and energy-efficient addition to any home,” Wagner concludes.


Chase Away Winter’s Chill with Radiant Heat

On those frigid mornings, wouldn't you love comfortable, even heat throughout your home, and a floor that's warm beneath your feet? Consider the benefits of a radiant floor heating.

Quik Trak Radiant Heat Flooring

Quik Trak Radiant Heat Flooring System at SupplyHouse.com

Drafts got you down? If your goal is to achieve even, comfortable heat and warm floors, then you may want to look into installing a radiant heating system for your home.

Radiant heating systems, which are typically installed in or below the floor of your home, distribute heat evenly and comfortably. The heating coils first warm up the floor. The heat radiates gradually throughout the room, warming any furnishings and surfaces in its path—which then give off warmth in turn. Everything in the room becomes snug and toasty while the overall air temperature remains comfortable, not stultifying.

“Radiant heat holds many advantages over typical convective heating methods,” notes Daniel O’Brian, a technical expert from online retailer SupplyHouse.com. “Radiant systems heat the whole room evenly, so there is no ‘cold at the floor, hot at the ceiling’ effect. They will even heat the surface of the objects in the room, greatly increasing comfort.”

Related:  Radiant Floor Heating 101

Quik Track Radiant Heat Package

Radiant heat Quik Trak system at SupplyHouse.com

“Because airflow is negligible in a radiant system, there is less heat loss due to drafts, and in general the thermostat can be set lower while remaining comfortable,” O’Brian continues. “On top of that, the water temperature required for a radiant system is much lower than for traditional systems. A properly configured radiant system can save you big bucks on utilities.”

Radiant heat is not only comfortable, but also aesthetically pleasing, because all of the components are tucked away out of sight—there are no radiators, baseboard heaters, or hot air returns in view. Radiant heat is also silent, eliminating much of the banging, whistling, creaking, popping, rattling, and humming associated with conventional heating systems.

There are two primary types of radiant heating systems, hydronic and electric. Hydronic systems are the most common and use hot water passing through PEX tubing to heat a space. In contrast, electric radiant systems provide heat through electric cables or mats. Radiant heat can be installed in both new construction and in existing homes, and there are several different types of installations available, depending on the home’s construction. For example, hydronic tubing can be installed in a cement foundation when it is initially poured, or the tubing can be installed in an “over-pour” on an existing foundation. Tubing also can be installed in between the floor joists with or without plates, or it can be installed above the subfloor using a specialty product such as Quik Trak.

Rifeng Radiator Heat Manifold

Rifeng 7-Loop Stainless Steel Radiant Heat Manifold at SupplyHouse.com

Radiant heat is also an energy-efficient option for many homeowners. Although the initial installation cost may be 10 to 25 percent more expensive than a conventional heating system, a properly designed and maintained radiant heating system can cost 25 to 50 percent less to run and maintain. Also, the life expectancy of a radiant heat system is typically 30 to 45 years, double or even triple the 10- to 25- year life expectancy of a traditional forced-air furnace. Radiant heat can also increase the value of your home at resale, because these systems are considered a highly desirable option among home buyers.

SupplyHouse.com offers a large selection of products and packages for installing radiant heating systems from the top manufacturers in the industry. For more information, including a radiant heat calculator, visit SupplyHouse.com.

 

This post has been brought to you by SupplyHouse.com. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.


How To: Clean Porcelain Tile

A beautiful and extremely durable flooring option, porcelain tile will retain its sparkling finish for years—so long as it's cleaned regularly and appropriately. Here's how.

How to Clean Porcelain Tile

Photo: porcelanosa-usa.com

Porcelain tile consistently ranks as a preferred flooring choice among homeowners, partly due to its beauty—the material comes in a veritable rainbow of hues—and partly due to its stain- and moisture-resistance. Though it loses luster over time, porcelain tile can be easily cleaned and restored to its original shine.

Related: Top Tips for Cleaning Grout Lines

Regularly maintaining porcelain tile is the best way to keep it in tip-top condition. As often as two times per week, sweep with a soft-bristle broom before vacuuming (with the brush attachment). Once a month, mix 1/4 cup white vinegar with two gallons of water (or purchase one of the many suitable commercial cleansers), then apply the solution with a sponge mop. Rinse with plain water, then dry the surface completely with a clean towel or a microfiber cloth.

There are different types of porcelain tile (unpolished/unglazed, polished/glazed, or textured) and for each type, a different set of care recommendations applies:

Cleaning Unpolished/Unglazed Porcelain Tile
• Vacuum and sweep the area thoroughly to remove dust and dirt.

• Taking one section at a time (two or four feet square), saturate the tile surface with a vinegar-and-water mixture or a commercial cleanser.

• Allow the cleanser to soak into the tile for five to ten minutes, but do not allow it to dry.

• Scrub stained areas with a soft-bristle brush.

• Wipe away the dirty cleaning solution and rinse the area with clean, hot water.

• Dry the tile with a clean towel or a microfiber cloth.

How to Clean Porcelain Tile - Wenge

Photo: designbuildmn.com

Cleaning Polished/Glazed Porcelain Tile
• Sweep and vacuum debris and dirt, then go over the area with a dry dust mop.

• Now use a hot water-dampened mop, never allowing moisture to puddle or pool on the tile.

• Loosen heavier soil with a soft nylon-bristle brush (or an old toothbrush).

• For stains, use a vinegar-and-water mixture (or a commercial cleanser diluted to half strength).

• Mop with your chosen cleanser, mopping again with hot water before the cleanser dries.

• Dry the tile surface with a clean towel or a microfiber cloth, being sure to rub out any water spots.

• Once dry, buff the tile to a high shine with a piece of cheesecloth.

Cleaning Textured Porcelain Tile
• Sweep the area twice with a soft-bristle broom, first in the direction of the tile, then on a diagonal.

• Vacuum to remove all dirt.

• Saturate the tile with a vinegar-and-water solution, allowing it to soak for five to ten minutes.

• Scrub the floor with a soft-bristle brush, again working in two directions.

• Rinse the floor with hot water in order to thoroughly remove the cleaning solution.

• Go over the floor with a clean, damp mop.

• Dry with a clean towel or a microfiber cloth.

While porcelain tile boasts exceptional durability, there are few cleaning products and techniques you should take pains to avoid:

  • Never use a product containing ammonia or bleach (or any type of acid-based cleanser); these can alter the tile color and/or stain the grout.
  • Never use oil-based detergents or wax cleaners.
  • On unglazed porcelain, never use any cleaners that contain dye or coloring.
  • Never use steel wool on porcelain tile—small particles of steel can become embedded in the tile and grout, eventually causing rust stains.
  • Never use hard bristles or scrub brushes, as they can scratch the tile surface.

Regular cleaning and polishing with a soft cotton or microfiber cloth will ensure that porcelain tile retains its “like new” shine for many years.


Add Visual Interest with Board and Batten

Historically associated with Arts and Crafts architecture, the three-dimensional appeal of board and batten is finding renewed popularity in both exterior and interior applications.

Board and Batten

Photo: jeremykohm.com

A striking dimensional finishing treatment, board and batten, is enjoying renewed popularity, with homeowners installing it both on the exterior and indoors. Historically a staple of Arts and Crafts architecture, board and batten originated as a form of house siding. The term “batten” refers to the strip of molding placed across the joint between boards. The resulting look boasts an attractive geometry: strong vertical lines balanced by a sense of texture across the horizontal.

As an exterior cladding, board and batten manages to impart a rustic, handmade quality even to new homes built in unmistakably contemporary styles. Within the home, board and batten commonly appears in mudrooms and hallways, bedrooms and dining areas, adding charm to otherwise bland expanses of drywall or plaster. Many traditional designs for non-permanent elements of the home—shutters, for example, or cabinet doors—also feature board-and-batten construction.

Board and Batten - Exterior

Photo: historicalconcepts.com

For the average do-it-yourselfer, installing board and batten lies well within reach, especially since home centers and hardware stores often sell pre-measured kits that make it a breeze. If you are planning a project either on the exterior or interior, here are a few hard-earned tips to help you achieve a professional-level result:

Exterior Installation Tips:

• Before you begin the work of installation, paint or stain the boards and battens, and don’t forget to apply a sealer, protecting the wood from the weather.

• Start by cutting the boards, typically to width between one and four feet. Leave a 1/4- or 1/2-inch gap between the boards to allow for seasonal expansion.

• Center the one- or two-inch-wide battens over the joints between the boards. Nail through the battens so that the fasteners drive into the expansion gaps.

• Buy or build enough battens to use as trim pieces that finish off the top and bottom edges of your installation, as well as its sides or corners.

Board and Batten - Staircase

Photo: goodarchitecture.com

Interior Installation Tips:

• Depending on height, interior installations typically run between baseboard and chair or plate railing.

• Paint or stain the board and battens prior to installation just as you would do on the home exterior.

• A simple approach is to use plywood panel boards, roughly four feet wide by four- or six-feet tall.

• In the course of installing the boards, always retain a 1/4- or 1/2-inch expansion gap between them.

• Position one-by-two-inch or one-by-one-inch battens over the expansion gap between the boards.

• Nail through the center of the battens, so the fasteners drive between the boards and into the wall.

• Remember that any extra pieces of batten may be reused as molding around windows or door frames.

• If you prefer not to work with plywood, other cost-friendly materials include MDF and composite.

Board-and-batten styling imparts depth and texture to both exteriors and interiors, lending a sophisticated yet unpretentious air to virtually any home, whether it’s a recent construction or has been around 100 years.


How To: Choose a New Boiler

If you're looking to update your boiler before winter sets in, make sure you take into consideration your boiler's size, efficiency, and venting requirements.

Boilers

Photo: SupplyHouse.com

Feel that chill in the air? Winter is coming. Now is the time to assess your heating system and replace any aging or malfunctioning components. The first thing to look at is your boiler—the most common heating source in any water- or steam-based system. Boilers use natural gas, oil, electricity, propane, or wood to create hot water or steam that heats your home through radiators, baseboard convectors, radiant floors, or fan-forced coils.

There are several different types of boilers available, including high-efficiency units designed to help homeowners rein in high heating costs. If your heating system is more than 10 years old, you may be able to achieve substantial savings by switching to a newer model.

“While the old adage ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ certainly still applies, older boilers were often grossly oversized for the heating load of the house,” explains Daniel O’Brian, technical expert at online retailer SupplyHouse.com. “This leads to a dramatic drop in efficiency and an increase in heating bills and maintenance visits. A heat loss calculation can determine whether your current boiler is properly sized for your home. It’s a good first step in deciding whether or not to replace it.”

THE RIGHT SIZE 
Boiler capacity is measured in BTUs, or British Thermal Units. This figure represents the amount of energy required to increase the temperature of one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit. Every building has a unique BTU requirement based on its geographical location and climate, the number of windows and doors in the home, and the quality and amount of insulation in the walls and ceilings.

An easy rule-of-thumb for BTU requirements is to figure that you need about 50 BTU per square foot of interior space in a cold climate; 35 BTU per square foot in a moderate climate; and 20 BTU per square foot in a hot climate. As an example, if you have a 2,000-square-foot house in a moderate climate, you need a boiler that can produce approximately 70,000 BTUs. Use this handy BTU calculator to determine what size is appropriate for your home.

EFFICIENCY MATTERS
A key factor when shopping for a new boiler is the annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) rating. This rating shows how effective the unit is in converting fuel into heating energy. “Replacing your boiler with a high-efficiency unit may seem like a no-brainer, however, these units require different operating conditions to reach their efficiency ratings,” comments O’Brian. “A straight-up trade may not net you much in the way of fuel savings without adjustments to the heating system.”

Any boiler with an AFUE rating of 85 percent or more is considered to be a high-efficiency boiler; many of these are Energy Star-certified, which means they meet strict energy-efficiency guidelines set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Most new oil furnaces today have AFUE ratings of between 80 percent and 90 percent, with their gas equivalents rating between 89 percent to 98 percent. Condensing boilers can reach ratings of over 95 percent when used with an outdoor reset modulation feature that accounts for outdoor temperatures. Electric boilers are nearly 100 percent efficient because they produce no waste gas; they can be a good option in areas of the country where electricity costs are low.

VENTING REQUIREMENTS

Direct vent vs Power Vent boilers

Diagram: SupplyHouse.com

Another consideration when shopping for a new boiler is selecting a venting system that will work within your home. Chimney-vented boilers exhaust naturally through a chimney, while power- and direct-vent boilers use fans to push exhaust through a roof or side wall vent. Since power-vent boilers use air from inside they can be installed only in open rooms, not in tight closets or crawl spaces. Condensing boilers have special venting requirements due to the acidity of the condensate that they produce.

To learn more about boilers and how to choose the one that’s right for your home, watch the video below, or visit SupplyHouse.com.  And, if you are in the market to buy, take advantage of the company’s annual Trade Tuesday event, December 3, 2013, for 5% site-wide savings.

This post has been brought to you by SupplyHouse.com.  Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.


How To: Clean a Microfiber Sofa

You can keep that soft, lustrous microfiber sofa looking great if you vacuum it frequently and make sure you clean it only as directed.

How to Clean a Microfiber Couch

Photo: shutterstock.com

In recent years, microfiber furniture has risen in popularity with homeowners because the fabric is not only appealing to the eye but also super-soft to the touch. Unfortunately, accidents happen, and microfiber’s downside is that, compared with other types of upholstery, it takes a bit more care to clean.

Related: How To Clean EVERYTHING

The first thing to know is that microfiber varies from product to product. For different forms of the material, different cleaning strategies apply. To determine the right approach to take, check the manufacturer’s tag, which should be marked W, S, S-W, or X.

Here’s what those letter-based codes are all about:

  • W means you can use a water-based solution.
  • S indicates that you must use a solvent-based cleaner.
  • S-W denotes a fabric for which it is safe to use either a water-based or solvent-based formula.
  • X means that neither water- nor solvent-based cleaners are appropriate; the fabric may only be vacuumed.

No matter the code listed, begin cleaning with a conservative method, moving on to a more aggressive approach if necessary. If you’ve never before used a particular cleaner, try it first on an inconspicuous part of the furniture and proceed only if it produces the anticipated results.

Least risky of all is vacuuming, and it’s recommended that you undertake modest cleaning efforts on a regular basis—weekly or bimonthly. Equip your vacuum with the brush attachment and be careful not to press too hard on the fabric or you may inadvertently press in dust or dirt.

Code W Microfiber
Mix a small amount of gentle laundry soap into a bucket of cold water. Dip a clean washcloth into the soapy water and use it to moisten any stained areas of the couch. Continue dipping and blotting until you are sure the stain has gone away. Now take up any excess water with a dry washcloth. Never allow water to puddle or pool on the furniture. Once the fabric has dried, vacuum once again to restore the nap.

How to Clean a Microfiber Couch - Detail

Photo: shutterstock.com

Code S Microfiber
Sprinkle dry detergent on the stained area, gently massaging it in with a soft-bristled brush. After leaving the detergent on the couch for as long as advised by the directions on the product label, vacuum thoroughly in order to remove all of the detergent.

Related: 7 Pantry Items That Naturally Clean and Freshen

Alternatively, blot either rubbing alcohol or dry-cleaning solvent onto the stain. Let sit for a few minutes, then dry the area with a clean washcloth (blot, don’t rub). As a final step, restore the nap by combing the microfiber with a soft-bristled brush.

Code X Microfiber 
Loosen dirt and dust with a soft-bristled brush, then vacuum thoroughly with the brush attachment. Though in the case of stubborn stains it may be tempting, never use harsh chemical cleansers, bleach, or acetone on this type or any other type of microfiber. Do so and you risk severely damaging the fabric. Stumped? Contact the sofa manufacturer for advice.

Lush and lovely when new, a microfiber sofa can be kept comfortable and beautiful for many years, provided that you maintain the piece with the variety of TLC that suits the fabric.


Spruce Up Old Baseboard Heaters with Stylish DIY Replacement Covers

Looking for a way to retrofit your old baseboard heaters? Do it yourself with the versatile and easy to install Baseboarders replacement covers.

DIY Baseboard Heater Covers - Before

Photo: SupplyHouse.com

Baseboard heaters have been an extremely popular choice for many homes since the mid-1950s—and unfortunately, many of these units are showing their age. Dents, dings, scratches and rust spots can make these sleek, compact radiator covers look dated and shabby.  Luckily, there is an easy do-it-yourself retrofit for today’s homeowners with Baseboarders.

Baseboarders is the versatile, one-size fits all replacement heater covers that offer homeowners an easy way to refurbish old, ugly and damaged baseboard heaters. The sleek, architecturally-inspired covers take only a couple of minutes to install, and are a simple DIY home improvement project that can dramatically improve the look of any room.

“The main benefits to Baseboarders replacement heater covers are the elegant look, the ease of installation and the fact that they are safe for children,” points out Daniel O’Brian, a technical expert from online retailer SupplyHouse.com, which sells an extensive selection of Baseboarders products. “Baseboarders heater covers can give your room a whole new look in minutes; they are the sturdiest covers on the market, and they have a lifetime warranty against rust.”

Measuring baseboard heater

Photo: SupplyHouse.com

Baseboarders replacement heater covers are made of 22-gauge perforated steel with two separate layers of protection against rust: an electroplated galvanized undercoat finished with an epoxy-based top coat in semi-gloss white. The sleek, curved silhouette of the covers allows them to fit easily over most existing baseboard heaters, measuring from 5 ½ to 6 ¾ inches tall, 3 ¼ inches deep from the wall and between 7 ½ to 9 inches from the floor to the top of heater. There is also a premium tall version available to fit over larger heating elements. To determine the correct size for your specific heater, check out this handy retrofit guide.

Another key feature of Baseboarders is the perforated steel screen construction, which promotes superior airflow to the heating element, while keeping it concealed. The child-safe design prevents children’s fingers from reaching into the heater, and also prevents small toys or other flammable objects from becoming trapped inside or under the heater cover.

DIY Baseboard Heater Covers - Installing

Installing Baseboarders replacement covers. Photo: SupplyHouse.com

Installing replacement baseboard covers is literally “a snap” due to the innovative construction. Simply remove the existing end caps and front cover; then position the Baseboarders replacement cover over the existing back plate and heater unit. Push down the lip of the new cover over the existing back plate until the new cover is secure; then snap in the new end caps, which can be adjusted side-to-side to ensure a perfect fit. If there is no existing back plate, you can purchase wall brackets to hold the new cover in place. For longer heaters, you can put multiple sections of Baseboarders covers together with a simple coupler strip.

Prices range from $41.95 for a two foot section up to $129.95 for a six-foot section; end caps start at $16.95; inside and outside corners, coupler pieces and mounting brackets also are available. All of the components are finished in a powder-coated, semi-gloss white tone and can be painted to match any décor. Baseboarders replacement heater covers allow you to transform a grungy and decrepit eyesore into an architectural asset in minutes, and at a fraction of the cost of replacing the heating system.

DIY Baseboard Heater Cover - After

Baseboarders. Photo: SupplyHouse.com

To learn more about the installation process check out the video below, or visit SupplyHouse.com where you’ll find more information on baseboard heater covers and how to choose the right produce for your needs.

 

This post has been brought to you by SupplyHouse.com.  Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.


Clean Gutters Now to Avoid Big Problems Later

Gutters are crucial in keeping water away from your house, but to do their job properly, they need to be free of clogging dirt and debris. Fortunately, you have a number of options for cleaning them out—and some don't even require a ladder!

How to Clean Gutters

Photo: shutterstock.com

Of all the necessary evils that go into a diligent fall maintenance routine, cleaning the gutters may be the most dreaded of all. Tedious though this task is, homeowners are wise not to neglect it: Properly functioning gutters, after all, help ensure that storm water does not find its way inside.

There are several ways to get the job done. No matter your chosen approach, the first step is to assess the state of the gutters, determining whether any clogs exist, and if so, their cause. Twigs and dry leaves are easy enough to clear away, but if your gutters are obstructed by dirt or decomposed organic matter (or even small seedlings), a relatively aggressive removal method may be in order. Here are a few of the most common and effective ways to clean gutters:

How to Clean Gutters With a Leaf Blower
Many leaf blowers come with a nozzle attachment designed to release a narrow stream of air, perfect for the purpose of gutter cleaning. Position your ladder so that you can work gradually toward the downspout, blowing out obstructions as you go. (Be careful to avoid blowing leaves into the downspout.) As a final step, remove any lingering leaves or twigs with a hose. Don’t want to stand on a ladder? A specialized attachment can extend the reach of your leaf blower.

How to Clean Gutters With a Wet/Dry Vacuum
To remove heavier debris from your gutters, experiment with a wet/dry vacuum. Your local home improvement retail store likely carries the hoses and curved attachments you need to reach the obstructed gutters from a standing position on the ground. Stubborn, stuck-on dirt may need to be moistened before it succumbs to the vacuum. Again, once you’ve removed the bulk of the material, flush the gutters and downspout with water from a garden hose.

How to Clean Gutters - By Hand

Photo: shutterstock.com

How to Clean Gutters With a Power Washer
Has it been a long while since you last cleaned your gutters? A layer of dirt and debris may have built up over time. Blast it away with the fine-spray nozzle of your power washer. (This type of cleaning can get messy; be prepared to rinse the roof and exterior walls afterward.) For clogged downspouts in particular, there’s no better recourse than a power washer. Simply point the nozzle down the hole and rinse the shaft until water can run freely through it.

How to Clean Gutters With a Garden Hose
So long as they are not thoroughly clogged, you can clean your gutters successfully with a garden hose. If the hose is equipped with the right attachment (a rigid tube with a curved end), you can stand on the ground, not on a ladder, as you work. Again, start at the end farthest from the downspout and flush the length of the channel; remove any residual material by hand before it dries out.

How to Clean Gutters by Hand
To clean gutters by hand, you’ll need a ladder, bucket, gutter scoop (or garden trowel), and heavy-duty gloves. Little by little, take out the leaves and debris, placing what you remove into the bucket. Finally, flush the gutters and downspout with water until you are certain both are functioning properly. Tip: If your downspouts are clogged and you don’t have a power washer, try busting through the obstruction with a plumber’s snake, then rinse with a hose.

Consider installing a screen or barrier on top of your gutters to prevent leaves and debris from accumulating over the course of the year. Remember what they say about an ounce of prevention!


The Basics of Wind Power Systems for Homes

Before you invest in a clean-and-green home wind power system, take the time to consider the costs and benefits of building a turbine on your property.

Home Wind Power - Micro Turbine

Photo: shutterstock.com

If you’re looking for a green energy alternative to supplement your home’s supply of electricity, heed the immortal words of Bob Dylan: “The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.” You may be surprised to learn that for most do-it-yourselfers, generating wind power on a small scale is well within reach. But don’t do it merely because it’s possible. First things first: Before you get started, determine whether harnessing wind energy is a cost-effective choice for you.

Related: Let the Sun Shine In: DIY Solar Projects for the Average Homeowner

Simply put, certain areas of the country are windier than others. To justify a project like this, your home should experience a minimum average wind speed of 10 miles per hour, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. How do you find out the average wind speed where you live? Local weather agencies often record this information, plus there are wind resource maps available at Wind Powering America, a valuable site for anyone researching DIY wind power.

In addition to wind speed, you must also take into account the size of your property. A wind-generating tower does not require acres and acres of land, but it’s only prudent to make sure that you have enough space to accommodate one. Also, review the local zoning; some municipalities prohibit turbines.

Consider, in addition, how much electricity you wish to generate through wind. The larger the system you build, the greater the cost to build it. Fortunately, some state and federal programs offer incentives for energy-efficient home improvements; check to see if your project would be eligible for a government rebate.

The key components of a home wind-power system include:

Rotor: The rotor attaches to the turbine blades and captures wind energy.

Generator (or an alternator mounted on a frame): The generator produces electricity from the spinning motion of the rotor.

Mounting tower: The mounting tower raises the rotor and blades to a height above other structures in order to expose them to maximum wind speeds.

Home Wind Power - Small Turbine

Photo: windpoweramerica.com

An optional component is a means of channeling the energy you harvest into the power grid. In many areas of the country, you can sell your surplus back to the local utility company. However, any small-scale setup is unlikely to produce enough electricity to power the household, let alone generate a surplus.

The cost of building a wind-power system ranges from several hundred dollars to $35,000 or more, depending on size. Small-scale, or micro, wind turbines are able to continuously output anywhere from 1 to 10 kilowatts. But with U.S. homes typically using about 960 kilowatt hours per month, only the largest of home turbines can fully satisfy the electricity demands of the average residence.

At most home improvement centers, you can find myriad useful materials and turbine kits. Doing the whole job by yourself may not be an option, though. Building codes in some areas call for an electrician to install the connection between the turbine and the grid. Likewise, an inspector must confirm that the work is in compliance with regulations.

So, do your research, and when the wind is blowing leaves around your yard this fall, consider harnessing some of that energy for your home.