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Radiant Heating Gives You Total Design Freedom

The benefits of radiant floor heating range from increased energy efficiency to improved indoor air quality, but for design-conscious homeowners, its greatest appeal may be that it's unnoticeable.

Radiant Heating Gives You Total Design Freedom - Warmboard

Photo: warmboard.com

By now, you’re familiar with the many benefits of radiant floor heating: It runs silently, circulates no dust or airborne impurities, and operates at least 25 percent more efficiently than the forced-air systems in so many American homes. Still, for some homeowners, what’s most impressive about radiant heat is how it stays out of the way, its  components always invisible. There are no vents, radiators, or baseboards to work around, enabling you to enjoy true design freedom. You get to lay out and decorate your home without coming up against any impediments, and without having to make any sacrifices. Radiant heat stays out of your way.

Radiant heating isn’t magic. The concept actually dates back to the Roman era, and 21st-century versions are the result of sound building science and savvy engineering. The principle is that, instead of distributing heat from a single source within a room, it would be more effective to deliver heat across the entire square footage of a space, from beneath the floor (or even from within the walls). Hidden from view, hydronic tubes deliver heated water to a series of panels, which in turn conduct heat into the rooms of the home. What results is an even, enveloping heat whose source does not encroach at all into the heated areas.

Over the past few decades, we’ve gradually become accustomed to setting up our living spaces only in ways our heating system components permit. For instance, knowing that obstruction would disrupt their proper operation, you’d seek not to place anything in the way of a forced-air vent or air return. Likewise, is there anyone who’s never chosen a spot for a piece of furniture specifically so that it would conceal the rusty baseboard or radiator with peeling paint? With radiant heat, meanwhile, there are no such limitations, because, quite simply, there are no visible components the homeowner would need to make allowances for.

Photo: warmboard.com

Even among radiant heating products, there are a range of technologies. Traditional radiant systems rely on concrete, with hydronic tubes set inside. Though it may be the most common approach, concrete isn’t always the best, in part because it doesn’t install easily under every floor type. To work under hardwood, for example, the concrete must be supplemented with an intermediate layer of either “sleeper” beams or plywood. The extra layers not only steal height from the room, but they also put more material between the heat source and the home interior. Sleeper beams, in particular, break up the heating area and cause surface temperature to vary across the floor. That decreases comfort while increasing the likelihood of uneven temperatures leading to floor damage.

Only Warmboard radiant heating panels are manufactured in a way that allows wood floor boards to be installed directly on top. With Warmboard’s highly conductive aluminum panels heating the floor material directly, with no intervening layer, the risk of damage to the wood goes away. In fact, Warmboard products are compatible not only with solid and engineered wood, but with virtually all types of flooring, including tile, vinyl, linoleum, and carpeting.

In the past, thick carpets and radiant heat were rarely used in combination, because with its insulating properties, carpeting worked against under-floor heating. That’s no longer the case, thanks to Warmboard. Because its aluminum panels conduct heat so efficiently, there’s enough power to heat through even thick-pile wool carpeting. So while radiant heating affords greater flexibility than traditional systems, innovative Warmboard technology takes it all a step further, eliminating what few obstacles remained. Now you have total freedom to design your home exactly how you please, and isn’t that how it should be?

Photo: warmboard.com

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


Make One Minor Change to Get Major Curb Appeal

A new door gives your facade a facelift, while improving security and energy efficiency. Plus, recent data suggests the replacement all but pays for itself upon resale. So what are you waiting for?

Photo: masonite.com

When Remodeling magazine last published its annual Cost vs. Value Report, many were surprised to learn that, of all the many different home improvements one might undertake, front door replacement offers the greatest return on investment. Upon resale, homeowners recoup a whopping 97 percent of the project cost. We already knew what a difference replacing the entry door could make for a home’s curb appeal. Now we know that the upgrade virtually pays for itself.

As the first and last thing a houseguest sees on his visit—and as a familiar, inevitable part of the homeowner’s daily life—entry doors play a pivotal role in design. Therefore, for a job of such modest proportions, front door replacement delivers outsized benefits. Besides the immediate boost to curb appeal, a new door can also bring enhanced security and even superior energy efficiency, assuming the previous installation, like many old doors, had become drafty over the years.

There are a dizzying array of doors on the market today. To narrow the options, anyone wading into the ocean of options can do well by focusing their search on warranty-backed doors from long-established manufacturers. Masonite fulfills both criteria. In operation since 1925, the Tampa, Florida-based company offers steel, wood, and fiberglass doors in styles to suit any preference or spec. Best of all, some Masonite doors are guaranteed by warranties for up to 25 years. In fact, Masonite steel and fiberglass doors feature a limited lifetime warranty when purchased at The Home Depot, making the retail chain your best bet for value.

Photo: masonite.com

Choosing a Masonite door can begin at The Home Depot, or it can begin online with Masonite Max. Offered jointly by The Home Depot and Masonite, the easy- and fun-to-use Web tool guides you through designing an entry door that perfectly matches both your practical needs and your aesthetic tastes.

When you’re finished, Masonite Max provides the name and model number of your chosen product, making your purchase from The Home Depot fast and hassle-free. And iff desired, you can even use Masonite Max to schedule an in-store appointment with a Home Depot customer service agent. He or she not only handles your checkout, but can also answer questions about working with Masonite doors.

If you’re a contractor, then, perhaps better than anyone, you know the old adage is true: Time is money. What you may not know is that in addition to carrying the full suite of Masonite entry doors, The Home Depot offers many appealing conveniences and services especially for its professional customers.

For starters, there’s the Pro App, which gives you up-to-the-minute info on what’s in and out of stock at your local store—definitely a time-saver. The Pro App also gives you electronic receipts, which you can quickly and easily forward to clients. That, too, saves you a step and frees up your time for other things.

In addition, purchases of Masonite doors—or any other tools or materials—can be charged to a Revolving Charge Account, which makes bookkeeping as easy as it possibly can be. Once you’re set up, the account allows you to carry a balance, make low monthly payments, and enjoy itemized billing.

Commercial Credit Accounts are yet another convenience for contractors at The Home Depot. These help small business owners by enabling them to issue cards to employees, track expenditures online, and set up PO numbers. You can go back to focusing on being a contractor, not an accountant!

For high-quality doors in almost every imaginable style and material, with unparalleled support for those in the building trades, Masonite and The Home Depot are the doorway to value and satisfaction.

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


How Does Radiant 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.

Photo: warmboard.com

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 

Photo: homelinkmag.com

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

Photo: warmboard.com

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

Photo: soa.utexas.edu

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.

 

Photo: warmboard.com

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


The Benefits of Radiant Heat Are Invisible, and That’s a Good Thing

Of all the advantages offered by radiant heating, perhaps most appealing is the fact that it's virtually unnoticeable.

Photo: warmboard.com

You’ve probably heard about radiant heating, a new technology that delivers comfort via hydronic panels installed underneath the floor. There are many things to love about this home heating alternative. For one, it operates silently, in contrast to roaring forced-air systems or clicking baseboards. Another benefit, one that particularly appeals to allergy sufferers and those concerned about health: Radiant heat involves no ductwork, so it does not recirculate indoor air pollutants and irritants throughout the home. As well, the energy-efficient attributes of the system are a major draw for budget-minded or eco-conscious homeowners. Often overlooked among all these benefits is a less obvious, but no less appealing, fact about radiant heat: It’s invisible.

Freedom
We’re so used to living in the midst of our heating systems that we almost take the frustration for granted. The radiator hulks in the corner, rendering that portion of the room unusable for any other purpose. But for the presence of the baseboard, you would have arranged the bedroom furniture in a completely different way. Now consider radiant heating, whose components live entirely beneath the flooring, whether wood, tile, or wall-to-wall carpeting. So situated, radiant heat never interferes with your plans for the space. You gain not only some extra square footage, but also complete freedom to organize and decorate the room as you see fit. When you think of radiant heat in that way, it’s a wonder that we put up with bulky, inconvenient heating system components for so many decades!

Comfort
One way or another, conventional heating systems are noticeable. Take, for instance, today’s most common type—forced-air heating. When it kicks on, heat blasts into the room. Gradually, the room cools down, only to receive another blast. Baseboard and radiator heating are likewise noticeable: The room is warmest, perhaps too warm, right next to the unit. The farther away you go, the cooler the room gets, until you’ve reached the other side of the space (where you might feel the need to put on a sweater). With radiant heat, there are neither blasts nor variations. There’s simply steady, even heat that calls no attention itself.

Savings
There’s only one place you notice radiant heating, and that’s on your monthly utility bill. Radiant heat consumes less energy than conventional systems, in part because it’s everywhere. Picture a room in your house: Inevitably, its conventional source of heat—be it a vent, baseboard, or radiator—is doing its best to hide somewhere on the perimeter. Radiant flooring, however, extends across the entire space. Given that level of virtually complete coverage, radiant heat needs far less energy to maintain a comfortable temperature than does a heat source that’s confined to a corner. Further, we all know that heat rises. So while conventional heating systems pump a great deal of heat toward the ceiling, radiant flooring puts the comfort where it’s needed most, at floor level. Invisible in every other way, radiant heat makes itself known when it comes to money savings over the long term.

Radiant Heat vs. Forced Air

Photo: warmboard.com

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


The Right Way to Start a Fire

Build a crackling fire that gives off satisfying, comfort-giving heat while requiring very little in the way of poking and prodding.

How to Start a Fie in the Fireplace

Photo: shutterstock.com

At first it may seem like a foolproof undertaking: You put some wood in the fireplace, light a match, then sit back and watch it burn, right? Well, yes and no. With seasoned firewood, a box of matches, and a handful of kindling, you can go a long way on trial-and-error alone. But if you build fires often and have grown tired of returning again and again to poke at the logs—or if you care about how much heat the fire actually gives off—then it’s a tremendous help to master a tried-and-true method of starting a fire in the fireplace. We’ll explain two such methods here, but first:

• Be sure your chimney has been cleaned by a professional. Over time, creosote builds up in the flue, making it vulnerable to chimney fires.

• Before bringing a flame into the equation, remember to open the fireplace damper so that smoke doesn’t overcome your living room.

• If your fireplace does not have a grate, add one for safety and to encourage the airflow needed to sustain combustion.

Once you’ve prepared the hearth and chimney, proceed to making the fire. With either strategy below, assuming proper execution, you should end up with a fire that not only generates a comforting degree of heat, but also burns well on its own, without needing near-constant attention and care.

 

THE “LOG CABIN” METHOD

How to Start a Fire in the Fireplace - Log Cabin Method

Photo: wikimedia.org

1. Place two thin logs with no bark parallel to the back of the fireplace, about six inches apart from one another.

2. Heap kindling—whether newspapers, twigs, or both—between the two logs from the previous step.

3. Position two additional logs perpendicular to the first two. You should end up with a primitive log cabin-type structure that is two logs tall.

4. If you choose, add one more layer, with the logs running in the same direction as the first pair.

5. Light the kindling.

Note: In 1978, Mother Earth News reported on a variation of the above, tweaked for maximum heat production. Start by laying kindling in the middle. Next, run two pieces of wood parallel to the sides of the firebox. The far tips of both logs should actually touch the rear of the firebox. Now, as in the normal log cabin method, lay two additional logs perpendicular to the existing two. Importantly, the rear perpendicular log should be touching the back of the fireplace. The other perpendicular log should be very close (not six inches away, as in the first log cabin version). Finally, light the kindling and enjoy a better blast of warmth from your winter blaze.

 

THE “UPSIDE DOWN” METHOD

How to Start a Fire in the Fireplace - Upside Down Approach

Photo: wikimedia.org

1. Line up your largest logs across the fireplace grate.

2. Lay a row of smaller logs on top of the logs that you arranged in the previous step.

3. Add one or more layers, each one comprising smaller logs than the last.

4. Use your kindling to form the final, top layer.

5. Light the fire from the top and enjoy fuss-free flames all night.

As the smaller wood on top starts to burn, hot embers drop down, gradually igniting the larger logs below. The upside-down method is typically thought to be superior to the log cabin approach, because, for one thing, the pyramidal arrangement creates a stronger draft. That draft feeds oxygen to the fire, allowing it to burn strong and for a longer period of time. Plus, consensus seems to be that the upside-down method produces more heat than the log cabin approach.

Why not try both and decide for yourself which you like better?


Heat Your Entire House with a New Radiant Heat System

If you're thinking about upgrading your heating system, maybe it's time to weigh the many benefits of radiant heating.

Radiant Heating

Photo: warmboard.com

Despite all the attention radiant heating has received over the last few years, you still might not regard it as a viable alternative to traditional systems, such as hydronic baseboards or forced-air furnaces. Part of the confusion is that radiant heating shares some similarities with floor warming, a stopgap option for small spaces that tend to get chilly. The reality is that radiant heating can heat your whole house, fully replacing your existing system. In fact, if you are contemplating a major renovation project, there are several reasons why you might want to include radiant heating in your plans.

It Heats Evenly
In a room with a radiator, baseboard, or duct register—that is to say, in most rooms in America—it’s warmest right near the heat source and gets cooler the farther away you move. As a result, the room winds up unevenly heated. You might find yourself needing a sweater while you’re sitting on the sofa, and then wanting to shed the extra layer when you’re working at the desk. In contrast, radiant heating installed beneath the floor delivers warmth across virtually every square inch of the space. When exiting one room and entering another, you can expect no change in the temperature. That means you can say goodbye to the discomfort of a stifling hot upstairs and a constantly chilly ground floor.

Radiant Heating - Detail Installation

Photo: warmboard.com

It Operates Silently
Radiators hiss, bang, and clank. Baseboards click—incessantly. And blowers can sound like airplanes taking off. Radiant heating, meanwhile, operates silently. When you remove your radiators, baseboards, or furnace in exchange for radiant heating, you eliminate disturbing noises.

It Eases Allergies
Dust, allergens, germs and other irritants build up in, and then circulate through, forced-air systems, the most common type of heating in the country. Forced-air systems also tend to lower the humidity level, effectively drying out the indoor air. That dryness too can lead to respiratory distress. Radiant heating creates no such problems; in fact, it solves them. Because it lies under the flooring (and sometimes, if you choose, behind walls), radiant heating remains out of sight, neither contributing to nor exacerbating any issues related to indoor air quality. For allergy sufferers and others concerned about sickness or family health, radiant heating is a breath of fresh air.

It Costs Less to Operate
Replacing your existing system with radiant heating may at first blush seem like a prohibitively expensive proposition. Certainly, it’s probably not a wise choice for homeowners who plan to move within a few years. But for others, radiant heating, despite the cost of installation, can translate over the long haul into real savings. From the moment you begin relying on radiant heating, your monthly utility bills are going to go down and stay down.

Why? Because radiant heating requires less energy to keep your house as comfortable as your old system did. For example, in a traditional hydronic heating system, water must be heated to 140 degrees Fahrenheit (or more) in order to put out a comfortable level of heat through a radiator or baseboard. Compare that with the radiant heating offered by Warmboard: To keep a home equally comfortable, Warmboard only needs temperatures between 80 and 108 degrees! This not only saves energy, but it extends the life of your heating appliance.

Plus, because radiant heating, well, radiates up from the floor surface, not from a single source in the room, it doesn’t need to work as hard to reach a target ambient temperature. Energy use declines, and your savings go up; so too does your level of comfort. And really, what price can you put on that?

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


The Right Way to Weatherstrip a Door

Besides being unpleasant, door drafts force your heating system to work harder (and consume more energy) to keep your home at a consistently comfortable temperature. You can go a long way toward solving the issue by weatherstripping your doors. Here's how to do it the right way.

Door Weather Stripping

Photo: montpelierrestoration.wordpress.com

Door drafts can be a cause of real discomfort. Besides the immediate unpleasantness of a chilly gust invading the warmth of your home in winter, there’s also the impact that drafts can have on your energy bills. That’s where weatherstripping comes in. According to Energy Star, the installation of weatherstripping can save you up to 20 percent on heating and cooling costs. Best of all, virtually anyone can install weatherstripping; this is definitely not a sophisticated DIY. But to coax the greatest value from its insulating properties, weatherstripping must be installed correctly. Continue reading to learn the right way to go about the project.

STEP 1
First, clean the door and the jamb, removing as much dirt and debris as possible. If any grime remains after scrubbing with soapy water, consider using fine-grit sandpaper to eliminate residual buildup. Once you’ve got the doorway clean, proceed to do some measuring. You need to answer two questions. First, how wide is the gap between the door and jamb? (Be sure to measure twice, once along the side, and again along the top. These measurements might differ.) Second, how wide is the jamb? While the answer to the first question tells you how thick the weatherstripping you purchase can be, the second answer reveals how widePlan on buying enough weatherstripping to run across the width and height of the door, plus about 10 percent extra (just in case).

Door Weather Stripping - Install Detail

Photo: dulley.com

STEP 2
Weatherstripping comes in a variety of materials. Each has pros and cons. Felt weatherstripping offers the benefits of being cheap and very easy to cut and install, but because it’s not very durable, it’s best confined to rarely used doors. Marginally more expensive is easy-to-install foam weatherstripping. Though foam wears better than felt, neither boasts the durability of rubber, the most expensive option. Rubber insulates well, but it can be somewhat challenging to install. Unlike the other options, it often must be nailed into place.

STEP 3
With your chosen weatherstripping at the ready, proceed to cut three pieces—one for the top, and two for the sides. If the product features an adhesive back, peel it away and press it into place around the perimeter of the door jamb, not the door itself. Even if your weatherstripping has adhesive, you may wish to reinforce the installation with heavy-duty staples or small tacking nails. Either will help keep the weatherstripping in place over time.

STEP 4
To complete the job, install a sweep along the bottom of the door. The most common type of door sweep consists of a metal band from which a strip of rubber juts down. When the door opens, the rubber flexes so as not to be an impediment, and when the door closes, the rubber provides a strong air seal.

Door sweeps come in standard sizes, but if you cannot find one whose width matches that of your door, you can use a hacksaw to cut the sweep down to size. Attach the right-size sweep to the door using the screws provided. Because these screws tend to be small and not self-tapping, it’s best to predrill holes for them by means of an electric drill/driver. Position the sweep so that it seals tightly against the threshold.

From start to finish, the door weatherstripping process should take no longer than an hour. That’s a small time commitment to ensure that you remain comfortable through the winter, without spending a fortune on to keep the house warm. Though it’s a simple project, weatherstripping really is one of the most effective ways to stop drafts and the discomfort they cause.

 


The Right Way to Load a Dishwasher

Are some of your plates and bowls still dirty when they emerge from the dishwasher? The problem might be how you're loading the machine. Read on to learn the right way.

How to Load a Dishwasher

Photo: shutterstock.com

Of all kitchen appliances, the dishwasher must rank as one of the greatest, don’t you think? It’s a true time-saver. While the alternative involves laborious scrubbing, this wonderful convenience of modern life takes just the push of a button to restore a glut of dirty dishes to pristine cleanliness. The trouble is that on occasion you may open the post-cycle dishwasher to find that some items are less clean than you’d like. In such cases, it may be that the appliance isn’t to blame; perhaps you, its user, are the culpable one. Most of us are accustomed to packing in as many cups and plates as possible, but did you know there is a right way to load a dishwasher? Read on to learn how to fill the machine to the brim without sacrificing cleaning effectiveness.

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Safety First
Proper use of the dishwasher begins with knowing which items are safe to put in the machine. While it certainly seems that more and more items these days are dishwasher-friendly, there remain some materials that you ought to hand-wash in the sink—namely, wood, cast iron, bronze, pewter, and leaded crystal. Silver can go in the dishwasher only in certain cases; if you’re not sure about yours, it’s best to be cautious and hand-wash.

How to Load a Dishwasher - Detail Shot

Photo: shutterstock.com

Scrape and Rinse
Before putting any plates or bowls, pots or pans into the dishwasher, be sure to scrape food residue into the trash. With modern dishwashers, running dishes under the faucet isn’t typically necessary. But if your machine is older and tends to struggle, prerinsing can be a good idea. Don’t go overboard, though; dishwasher detergent actually needs some grime to stick to.

Baking Pans and Cookie Sheets
If you use your dishwasher to clean large, unwieldy items like baking pans and cookie sheets, position them along the perimeter of the lower tier. Safely confined to the sides of the machine, the pans and sheets are less likely to impede the sprays that come from the bottom of the appliance.

Plates, Bowls, and Flatware
Load plates and bowls—plus any dishwasher-safe pots and pans—in the lower rack. Staggering larger and smaller plates can help them all get cleaner. Bowls may be placed side by side but tilt each one so that its dirty portion faces down. If your dishwasher comes with baskets for flatware, take advantage. It’s a good idea, however, to point some pieces of flatware up and others down. Also, mix forks, knives, and spoons together in the same baskets rather than grouping like items. Mixing things up prevents a nesting effect that limits exposure to the spray.

Plastic Containers
Place larger plastic containers on the lower shelf and smaller ones on top. All should face downward. Unlike dishes, plasticware should be lodged firmly between dividers so that containers do not become dislodged in the course of the cycle and interfere with the machine.

Cooking Utensils, Glasses, and Mugs
On the top rack, lay long utensils (for example, spatulas) perpendicular to the wire supports of the rack (if laid parallel, such items might fall through and block the spray arm). Next, place glasses and mugs along the left and right sides of the upper rack—and if your machine has one, snap down the protective flap. Finally, rest bowls over the long utensils you already placed. Yes, over the utensils—although it’s usually best not to layer items in the dishwasher, you can get away with it here, because cooking utensils are normally thin and not likely to block the spray of water.

The choice of detergent—liquid or powder—is largely a matter of preference, but for maximum effectiveness, use detergent that’s no more than two months old. Once you’ve got the machine running, go ahead and dirty another bowl with something—ice cream, anyone?—to celebrate the fact that you’re now a pro when it comes to loading a dishwasher properly.


Meet the Brighter Alternative to Traditional Skylights

Traditional skylights are no longer the sole option available to homeowners eager to bring light into dark spaces. Learn the many reason to opt for a tubular daylighting devices instead of traditional skylights.

Photo: Solatube International

There’s nothing quite like natural light to brighten the rooms of a home. For one thing, sunlight’s free, so making good use of it can cut down on electricity costs. For another, exposure to sunlight tends to boost people’s moods, and can even improve health. And when compared to fluorescents and other often unflattering types of lighting, natural light shines in its ability to draw out and intensify colors, enhancing the effect of your decor.

These are among the chief reasons that homeowners have in the past chosen to install skylights, which are, in effect, windows on the roof. But a traditional skylight is no longer the only option. These days, many homeowners are attracted to the significant advantages of a tubular daylighting device (TDD).

Illustration: Solatube International

Not only are TDDs more versatile than traditional skylights, but they also eliminate one of the problems that frequently plague skylights—leaks. Tubular skylights emit light through a small dome, not through a pane of glass, which results in their being far less prone to moisture seepage. Further, because TDDs are installed around structural components like joists and rafters, they can be accommodated without extensive renovation work. That means tubular skylights can often be installed faster—and for less money—than traditional skylights.

TDDs look virtually identical to ordinary lighting fixtures. In fact, a visitor who notices an installed TDD may not even realize that the light he’s seeing isn’t artificial. Solatube International—a global leader in daylighting systems—goes a step further, offering a wide range of decorative fixtures that ensure the company’s TDDs look perfectly at home in any decorating style.

Solatube even offers a Daylight Dimmer that lets you adjust the brightness. Plus, the company has developed a hybrid TDD with integrated LEDs that provides energy-efficient electric light for nighttime use (or when the weather is cloudy). That way, you don’t have to include a separate artificial lighting system in the room—the skylight alone can provide all the lighting you need.

Finally, TDDs may require less maintenance than a traditional skylight. The domes are designed to minimize the chance of leaves or debris building up around or on top of them, and because the domes are self-cleaning, you don’t need to make any dangerous trips to the roof.

Now that you know more about the advantages that TDDs have over traditional daylighting, are you beginning to see the light?

This post is sponsored on behalf of Solatube International. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.


The Right Way to Plunge a Toilet

Believe it or not—though it may seem like the most straightforward, uncomplicated of tasks—plunging a toilet requires proper technique. Here's what to do the next time you're dealing with a clog.

How to Plunge a Toilet - Plunger

Photo: shutterstock.com

People go weeks, months, and even years without giving the toilet a second thought. The instant it clogs, however, the toilet becomes the center of attention. While most homeowners are wise enough to keep a plunger somewhere in the house—if not in the bathroom itself, then perhaps in the linen closet or basement—a remarkable proportion don’t actually know how to plunge a toilet. The correct technique is easy to master. Certainly, practice makes perfect, but just about anyone can capably handle the task. Simply follow the steps detailed below.

STEP 1
There’s more than one type of plunger, so make sure you’re using the one that’s best for the task at hand. One type of plunger looks like a basketball cut in half (this is commonly known as the “standard plunger”). The other type features an extended flange. Use this type to plunge a toilet. The flange is there to fit snugly into the drain hole, ensuring a tight seal and resulting in superior suction power.

How to Plunge a Toilet - Toilet

Photo: shutterstock.com

STEP 2
It can be messy work to plunge a toilet. Minimize cleanup by heaping dirty rags or old towels at the base of the toilet. The fabric here becomes the landing area for any water that splashes out during the process. Another cleanliness-oriented tip: Before plunging a toilet whose bowl is completely filled with water, don gloves and use buckets to bail out half of the fluid.

STEP 3
You can plunge and plunge, working yourself into a frustrated sweat, but if there isn’t a tight seal between the tool and the toilet’s drain hole, you’re not going to be successful in clearing the clog. An easy method of improving plunger suction is to rub petroleum jelly on the rim of the flange—the part that goes into the drain hole. Before you plunge, it’s recommended that you plug any other drains in the bathroom (for example, the sink and shower drains). Doing so isn’t strictly necessary, but it does make the plunger more effective.

STEP 4
When you’re inserting the plunger into the bowl, take pains to be certain the flange has gone into the drain hole. Meanwhile, the rubber lip of the plunger should sit around that drain opening. Hold the tool in a vertical position, so the handle is pointing straight up. Though it may feel more comfortable to hold the plunger at an angle, doing so will compromise the seal between the plunger and the drain.

STEP 5
Now move the plunger forcefully up and down for about 10 or 20 seconds. That’s about as long as it should take for the force of the water and air going back and forth in the drain to clear up the clog.

As mentioned, plunging a toilet can get a little messy, so it’s a bad idea to attempt to plunge after you’ve poured in a drain-clearing chemical. If that chemical finds its way out of the toilet, it can harm your skin or even corrode materials on the toilet or elsewhere in the bathroom.

If after 30 seconds of steady plunging the clog has not cleared, call a plumber—that is, unless you happen to own a few plumber’s tools. What’s most likely needed now is what’s referred to as a snake, a flexible auger that is used to clear clogged pipes. To protect your toilet’s finish, it’s best to use an auger made specifically for toilets. Good luck!