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 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.


Looking to Save Energy? Consider Installing a Tankless Water Heater

A tankless water heater not only eliminates the need for a bulky storage tank, it's a great way to reduce your household energy costs.

Installing a Tankless Water Heater - Eemax Electric

Eemax Electric Tankless Water Heater from SupplyHouse.com

Everyone is talking about “on demand” these days, but the buzz has moved well beyond movies and videos and into the world of plumbing with the increasing popularity of tankless water heaters. Tankless water heaters provide hot water on an as-needed basis, thereby eliminating bulky and inconvenient storage tanks and saving energy at the same time.

Unlike conventional water heaters, which may hold 40 to 50 gallons of hot water ready at all times, tankless water heaters save energy by producing hot water only when needed. Tankless water heaters can, in fact, be 24 percent to 34 percent more efficient than a traditional tank-style water heater, depending on a home’s daily hot water demand, according to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy Web site.

“Tankless hot water heaters offer consistency and energy savings,” explains Daniel O’Brian, a technical expert from online retailer SupplyHouse.com, which offers a wide variety of both conventional and tankless hot water heating systems. “While they are generally not the best for peak hot water demands, they can still offer hundreds of gallons of hot water over the course of an hour. These units only heat water when you need it, so you don’t waste gas or electricity idly on keeping a huge tank warm.”

According to the U.S. Energy Star program, “Energy Star-certified tankless water heaters save the typical family more than $80 per year, or $1,700 over the lifetime of the water heater, on gas bills compared to a standard storage model. Gas tankless models are a great choice for new construction and major remodeling, but they are also becoming popular as a replacement for gas storage water heaters.”

Installing a Tankless Water Heater - Takagi

Takagi Tankless Water Heater from SupplyHouse.com

There are many different sizes and styles of tankless water heaters, including electric, natural gas, and propane, in single-room or whole-house sizes. Generally, you can replace an existing conventional water heater with a similarly powered tankless unit, although there are a few considerations depending on the power source: For electric systems, you will need to address the additional voltage and amperage requirements of a tankless heater; for gas systems, there must be proper ventilation.

Before purchasing a tankless water heater, you will need to determine your hot water usage, which is measured in gallons per minute (GPM), and figure out your maximum hot water demand. A typical shower requires about 2.5 GPM; dishwashers, washing machines, and other appliances all place additional demands on hot water production. Therefore, if you have multiple people showering or multiple appliances using hot water at the same time, you will need a larger water heater that delivers more gallons per minute.

Tankless water heaters are typically more expensive than conventional models, with prices ranging from $600 to $2,000, plus installation; in comparison, a standard water heater runs between $300 and $1,000. However, a tankless water heater will last an estimated 20 years, versus a conventional water heater that will last 10 to 15 years. The average energy savings and additional lifespan make tankless heaters a viable option for many homes. In addition, many state and local utilities offer rebates and incentives for converting to energy-saving appliances, which can help mitigate the cost of installing a tankless system.

You’ll find a variety of products and information at SupplyHouse.com, including helpful videos like the one below:

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


How To: Install Pegboard in Your Workshop

Clutter, be gone! Putting up a pegboard is a simple, satisfying project that will give you a place for pretty much anything, so you can (at last) put everything in its place.

Hang Pegboard - Painted

Photo: shutterstock.com

Does it look like a bomb went off in your workshop? Even the best tools are useless if they are nowhere to be found when you need them. Hang pegboard for a quick and easy tool storage solution that can be scaled to fit just about any space, whether it’s the nook above your workbench or an entire garage wall.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS 
- Tape measure
- 1″ x 3″ furring strips
- Drill/driver
- Wood screws
- Pegboard
- Jigsaw, circular saw, or table saw
- Pegboard hangers

Photo: shutterstock.com

STEP 1
Measure the width and height of the area where you plan to hang the pegboard, then calculate the number of furring strips you’ll need (they should be spaced every 16 inches). For example, if your width measurement is 96 inches, divide 96 by 16 to find that you’ll need 6 furring strips.

STEP 2
Cut the required number of furring strips to the height measured in Step 1. Fasten the furring strips at 16-inch stud intervals along the wall. Make sure they are secure and flush to the surface.

Related: Pegboard Storage: A Classic for All Time

STEP 3
Pegboard typically comes in 4′ x 8′ sheets, so you might very well need to cut yours down to size. Using a jigsaw, circular saw, or table saw, trim the board to the dimensions desired, then screw it onto the furring strips. If you’re installing an expanse of pegboard, screw in one panel at a time.

STEP 4
Decide what type of hardware to attach. Sold in sets, pegboard hangers vary in size and design to accommodate virtually any tool in the handyman’s arsenal. It may be helpful (or even fun) to lay out the tools you want to store on the pegboard, trying them out in different arrangements.

STEP 5
Add your chosen hardware to the pegboard and, finally, set your tools into place. Once they’ve discovered the perfect configuration, some people like to draw an outline around each tool so that its correct placement won’t be forgotten. To each his own—customization is central to pegboard’s appeal, after all!


How Old Is My House?

A mystery awaits! Learn how to scour paper records and decode subtle clues to uncover your home's true age.

How Old Is My House? - Exterior

Photo: shutterstock.com

Nothing satisfies like solving a good mystery, especially when the mystery to be unraveled is the history of your house. The average owner of an old house knows only roughly when the house was built. While the real estate company might have said one thing, the neighbors probably have their own ideas. So how do you find out exactly how old your house is? A surprising number of resources are available for the determined sleuth!

Government Records
Visit your town, city, or county tax assessor. Assuming they have been conscientiously maintained, the tax records should list the name of every person who has owned the land on which your house sits, along with the assessed value of the property from year to year. Do you spot a sudden jump in valuation? That suggests the construction of a new home on what had previously been an unimproved lot, or it might signify the completion of a substantial addition or renovation.

The office of your county clerk is another important place to stop as you wend the paper trail toward knowing more about the provenance of your home. You’re interested in three files: the Registrar of Deeds, the tract index, and the grantor-grantee index. These give you a comprehensive listing of all transactions that have involved your lot. Names and dates are included, and in addition, you’ll find the salient details of any lawsuits or liens filed over the years.

If you live in a city or town, seek out the local building inspector. Ask to see any permit applications associated with your street address. Because building permits are typically required for new construction and substantive remodeling projects, this line of inquiry may reward you with some interesting facts. Even if the date of your home’s construction is not given, you can at least learn about any major changes that have been made to the structure—additions and so on.

How Old Is My House? - Levittown

Photo: uic.edu

Fire insurance maps are yet another source of trustworthy particulars. These maps, which in many cases date back to the 1870s, can help you determine the materials used in the initial construction of your home.

Community Libraries
Many libraries devote sections to local history, their valuable archives containing such things as historical maps, original building plans, and even old photographs. Scour the real estate listings in decades-old newspapers and consult the census records for your area. Also, consider delving into wills and probate records, insurance ledgers, phone books, zoning maps, and municipal planning studies.

Architectural Investigation
If the case has gone cold despite all your efforts, turn your investigation toward the house itself: Its materials, method of construction, and architectural style all provide vital clues to its age.

For example, asphalt tile flooring exploded into popularity around 1920 but had been virtually forgotten by 1960. (Note that if at least one of your bathrooms still has the original fixtures, you can usually find a manufacturing date stamped on the underside of the toilet tank cover!) So long as your home has not been completely renovated, the builder’s choice of materials is likely to suggest a specific period of construction.

Related: 10 National Trust Properties to Visit

Another strong indicator of age is your house style. Like fashions in the clothing world, the popularity of different architectural styles waxes and wanes. Italianates were an 1850s favorite; Colonial Revival was all the rage in the 1890s; and by the 1900s, Craftsman-style houses had begun popping up everywhere.

Of course, you can always hire a professional architectural investigator to solve the mysteries surrounding the origin and history of your home. But why pay for someone else to have all the fun?


Why Every Gardener Needs a Worm Bin

Save money at the garden supply store by making your own high-quality organic fertilizer through vermicomposting—the easy and rewarding process of composting with worms.

Vermiculture

Photo: shutterstock.com

Anyone with a garden knows that fertilizer and enriched soil can be expensive. But did you know there is a source of high-quality organic material that you can build and maintain yourself at low cost? Yes! Brace yourself: It’s a worm bin.

Each year, the average household generates pounds and pounds of organic waste. With a worm bin, you can put all those kitchen scraps to excellent use, producing your own fertilizer suitable for vegetable gardens, flower beds, and lawns.

Vermiculture - Red Wigglers

Photo: shutterstock.com

Worm composting, also known as vermicomposting, resembles regular composting in many ways but requires less work. A traditional compost pile or bin requires human intervention—turning, aerating, heat management. In a worm bin, however, the worms do all of the work.

Benefits of Vermicomposting
Besides saving the gardener time and money that would otherwise be spent on purchasing commercial fertilizers, there are numerous benefits to vermicompost. For one thing, it improves soil aeration and contributes beneficial enzymes.

In fact, worm casings add micro-organisms that generate ten to 20 times more microbial activity than you’d find in regular soil. That attracts deep-burrowing earthworms already present in the soil, and these worms make tunnels that let water and nutrients flow to your plant’s root systems.

Rich in nitrogen, phosphates, and potash, worm casings can be mixed into a powerful liquid organic fertilizer and insecticide known as “worm tea,” which if sprayed directly onto plants, nourishes the leaves and creates a natural pest repellent.

Red Wigglers
The “kings” of vermicomposting are worms known as red wigglers (Eisenia fetida or Lubricous rubellas), sold from garden suppliers both in stores and online. Of course, adventurous gardeners can harvest their own worms in the backyard, and there’s anecdotal evidence to suggest that “local” worms may be more productive than “imported” ones, at least in the early stages of a worm bin.

Building a Worm Bin
Even for beginning do-it-yourselfers, setting up a worm bin is not especially challenging. There are many kits available, or you can make your own bin using readily available materials. Scroll down for a step-by-step overview of the project….

Vermiculture - DIY Worm Bin

Photo: green-mom.com

Tools and Materials
- Lidded rectangular plastic or wood storage bin
- Drill
- Newspaper and corrugated cardboard
- 2 cups ordinary soil
- Red worms (Lubricous rubellas) or compost worms (Eugenia fetid)

Step 1
Locate your bin on a part of your property that is removed from direct sunlight. Drill two rows of ventilation holes just beneath the lid, around the top edge of the bin itself. Space the holes three to four inches apart, keeping their diameter to less than 1/4 inch to prevent the worms from escaping.

Step 2
Shred newspaper into fine strips. (Avoid printer paper, which includes bleach, and glossy magazine pages, which contain dyes.) Meanwhile, tear corrugated cardboard into small, three- to four-inch pieces. Wet the newspaper strips until they are the consistency of a damp sponge, then squeeze out excess water.

Related: 10 Irresistible DIY Chicken Coops

Step 3
Add four to six inches of newspaper into the bin, followed by a layer of carboard pieces and anywhere from two to four cups of ordinary garden soil. Finally, add the worms, placing a small layer of damp paper over them. Close the lid, and you’re done for now.

Worm Feeding
You can ultimately expect to feed the worms table scraps every day, but at the outset, try about a cup every other day. Place the scraps in a corner and cover them with newspaper; add scraps to a different corner with each feeding. Certain food scraps are more suitable for use in worm bins than others.

Vermiculture - Compost

Photo: shutterstock.com

Here are the best food sources for worms:

  • Oatmeal and other cooked grains
  • Soft breads and cooked pasta
  • Coffee grounds and tea leaves
  • Crushed eggshells
  • Fruit, except citrus
  • Lettuce
  • Squash
  • Chopped vegetable matter (roots, tops, etc.)
  • Dry cornmeal, just a sprinkle, as a treat

Avoid putting the follow items in the worm bin:

  • Citrus fruits
  • Dairy
  • Meat
  • Oil
  • Extremely salty or processed foods
  • Sugar
  • Vinegar
  • Seeds

Worm Bin Maintenance
One of the advantages of worm bins is that they require so little maintenance. Make sure the interior of the bin stays damp but doesn’t become wet. Mist with a spray bottle when necessary. If the contents of the bin are getting soggy or too densely packed, add in a few handfuls of dry shredded newspaper. Avoid letting the bin material get too deep; that can lead to an excessive degree of dampness. (Shoot for the contents of the bin reaching a height of only six to eight inches.) For bins that always seem to harbor excess moisture, a window screen may be substituted for the solid lid.

Harvesting
After about two months, once the contents of the bin begin to look black, it’s time to harvest the casings. Stop adding fresh food for a few days in order to stimulate appetite. After that time, put something worms love (oatmeal or squash) on one side of the bin. Let the worms migrate to the food over the course of a couple of days, then scoop out the material from the other side. Pick through what you’ve gathered, replacing any worms accidentally taken out, and use the rest of the material to make your garden the envy of the neighborhood!


Bath Fans Do More Than Clear Odors

Since the bathroom is the most humid room in any house, a ventilation fan is the best defense against moisture-related problems—namely, mold and mildew.

Bathroom Fan Installation

Photo: diylife.com

Humidity is not only uncomfortable, it is damaging to your home, particularly indoors where it can lead to peeling paint, warped wooden doors and floors, and the potential for mold and mildew. Nowhere is the humidity problem more evident than in bathrooms, where bathtubs, showers, sinks and toilets all contribute to the release of moisture into the air.

Fortunately there is an easy solution within reach of most do-it-yourselfers: installing a bathroom ventilation fan. Bathroom fans are designed to promote positive air movement, bringing fresh air into the bathroom and at the same time, removing steam, humidity and even foul odors from the area.  In short, improving the overall air quality in your home.

“Since the bathroom is the most humid room in a house, having a ventilation fan is a no-brainer,” says Daniel O’Brian, a technical expert from online retailer SupplyHouse.com. Ventilation fans are designed to solve air movement problems and improve indoor air quality in homes and buildings. In many cases they are required by local building codes. “In the bathroom, a ventilation fan can quickly and efficiently whisk away odors, along with steam and moisture to reduce the potential for mold and mildew,” he adds.

Bathroom Fan Installation - Components

PB110 Premium Bath Fan (One Grille/Vent Only) from SupplyHouse.com

Bathroom fans come in three basic types: ceiling-mounted, which are installed directly into the ceiling and ventilate into the attic or through the roof; inline/remote fans, where the actual fan unit is located in the attic and connected to a ceiling grille in the bathroom with ductwork, venting to the outside through the attic roof or wall; and wall-mounted/external fans, which are mounted on the exterior wall of the house.

Inline/remote fans offer several advantages over ceiling- and wall-mounted fans: because the fan unit is located in a different location, inline fans tend to be substantially quieter. Also, one inline fan can be connected to several ducts and therefore can be used to ventilate multiple locations—a shower and a tub for instance—or even multiple bathrooms.

The main goal of bathroom ventilation is to change the air, and most experts say an efficient fan should produce eight complete air changes every hour. Therefore, the capacity of bathroom fans is rated in cubic feet per minute (CFM), indicating how much air a particular fan can move. According to the non-profit Home Ventilating Institute a good rule of thumb is to use 1 CFM per square foot of bathroom area: for example, typical 8-by-10 foot bathroom comprises 80 square feet and therefore needs a ventilation fan rated at 80 CFM.

For bathrooms larger than 100 square feet, the HVI recommends installing ventilation based on the number and type of bathroom fixtures: for example, showers, tubs and toilets all require a fan rated at 50 CFM, while a whirlpool tub requires a fan rated at 100 CFM. Therefore, if you have a large bathroom with a whirlpool tub, shower and toilet, your total ventilation needs adds up to 200 CFM.

Bathroom fans come in varied models and sizes, and typically are rated for continuous duty. Since many homeowners today are concerned with energy efficiency, there are numerous fans that are rated as part of the U.S. Energy Star program; Energy Star-compliant fans use approximately 20% less energy than standard models. Some bathroom fans also come with timers, humidity/moisture sensors, motion sensors that turn on when someone enters the room, heaters and decorative lighting kits.

Online retailer SupplyHouse.com has produced some helpful videos that can provide more information about how to choose the right product for your needs:

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


Create a Restful Refuge with a Traditional Sleeping Porch

Though popular in the Victorian age, the sleeping porch had been virtually forgotten by the postwar period. Today, homeowners are rediscovering this practical and utterly charming architectural tradition.

Sleeping Porch

Photo: Seth Benn

As a youngster, one of summer’s great thrills was “sleeping out,” usually on someone’s deck or porch, but sometimes even on the garage roof—any place where a gaggle of girls might giggle into the hours past their regular bedtimes. All these years later, adults across the country are rediscovering the simple joy of being lulled to sleep by cool night breezes and chirping crickets.

Sleeping porches were extremely popular at the turn of the 20th century, when health professionals advocated sleeping outdoors as a way to bolster the immune system. And prior to the advent of air conditioning, sleeping porches were especially popular in the South and the West; it was cooler to sleep outside at night.

Sleeping Porch - Kids

Photo: Lands End Development

Queen Anne Victorians and Arts & Crafts-style homes both typically featured sleeping porches (in effect, screened decks or balconies). You’d often find sleeping porches adjacent to second- or third-story bedrooms, located on a corner to receive breezes from all directions. But many rural farmhouses had sleeping porches on the ground floor, and even some city apartments contained such spaces.

Today, sleeping porches are making a comeback. According to a 2008 survey from the National Association of Home Builders, 63% of new home buyers consider a screened porch either desirable or essential. Whether they wish for it to be a nighttime escape or a daytime refuge, homeowners are indeed returning to the comfort afforded by the once-abandoned sleeping porch.

Transforming a deck, balcony, or porch into a sleeping porch is a fairly simple project. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

• The space should be covered against the elements and for safety, it should have at least a low railing around the perimeter.

• If you live in an area where bugs abound in summer, it probably goes without saying that screens are essential. Many choose also to integrate fabric shades or awnings, which can be lowered for privacy.

• Furnishings should be casual, comfortable, and resistant to the effects of water and sunlight.

• Since sleeping porches often serve as living areas during the day, fill these spaces with versatile pieces that perform more than one function. One idea: A suspended bed doubles as a porch swing.

• Since the key to a comfortable sleeping porch is air circulation, consider adding a ceiling fan. For indirect lighting, you may want to include some table lamps or flameless candles.

The most important thing to remember about sleeping porches is that they are for rest and relaxation. So grab a good book, a cup of tea, and a soft pillow, and curl up for a calm, peaceful, and soothing respite from the stresses of the day.