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Everything You Need to Know About Engineered Wood Floors

An engineered wood floor offers distinct advantages over its hardwood cousin while retaining all of the warmth and appeal of real wood. The reason—it is real wood!

Schon Golden Teak Quick Clic Engineered - Lumber Liquidators

Lumber Liquidators' Schon Golden Teak "Quick Clic" Engineered Wood Flooring

Engineered flooring might sound like something that’s made in a lab from plastics and other chemicals but, in fact, it consists of real wood. What sets engineered flooring apart from other types of hardwood flooring is that the boards are composed of a multi-layer “core” substrate with a wood veneer top rather than a solid piece of wood.

The core contains anywhere from three to seven layers of plywood or medium density fiberboard (MDF) which are put together in a cross-grain pattern using heat and high pressure. The top layer is a veneer of real hardwood and therefore can achieve the look of virtually any type of solid flooring available.

BENEFITS
The “sandwich-like” construction of engineered flooring is what gives it a distinct advantage over hardwood floors. Because each layer can shrink and swell on its own, engineered flooring is much less likely to buckle or warp under moist or extreme temperature conditions. The end result is a wood flooring product that mimics the beauty and appeal of solid hardwood, but costs less, installs easier and offers the benefits of moisture resistance.

“Engineered flooring is a popular choice for today’s homeowner for many reasons,” says Chelsea Fossum from Lumber Liquidators, a national flooring retailer that sells nearly 80 different styles of engineered hardwood products.  ”Since it is less susceptible to moisture issues, it can be installed below grade—including basements, and areas in the house subject to variations in humidity, like the bath. It can also be installed on top of a wood subfloor or concrete slab making it an easy install for the do-it-yourselfer,” she adds.

INSTALLATION
Installing engineered flooring is similar to other wood floor installations. The product can be nailed, stapled or glued down. “Easy Click” products are also available, allowing floorboards to be snapped together and “floated” above the base floor. Engineered wood is an extremely stable install because there’s very minimal potential for gapping and cupping, which is where the wood actually buckles on the edges. The flexible construction also makes it ideal for installing on top of radiant heat systems as it’s not subject to the shrinkage that pure hardwood can undergo from being dried out by this type of heat.

DOWNLOAD BOB VILA’S FLOORING GUIDE HERE

Virginia Mill Works Heritage Hickory Easy Click

Virginia Mill Works' Heritage Hickory "Easy Click" Handscraped Pre-Finished Engineered Hardwood at Lumber Liquidators

DESIGN
Engineered flooring comes in a wide range of wood species, from domestic maple and hickory to exotic Brazilian cherry and bamboo. Regardless of whether you live in a country cottage, suburban ranch, or contemporary condo, there is an engineered floor to suit your decorating style.

In addition to the variety of woods, you can also choose engineered flooring planks in a variety of widths, ranging from 2 ¼” to 7″, as well as a variety of lengths from 12″ to 60″. Many boxes have planks of differing sizes to keep the installation visually interesting. One of the more popular engineered wood floor finishes today is handscraped, which gives the product a worn, distressed feel reminiscent of authentic hand-planed wood floors.

MAINTENANCE
Maintaining engineered floors is pretty much the same as maintaining hardwood floors. You’ll want to be sure that the surfaces remain free from dirt, grit and any other grime that might scratch. Do this simply by sweeping with a soft-bristled brush or vacuuming on a regular basis. When the floors start to get a build up of dirt, clean them with a damp mop and a mild solution of vinegar and water. Never use a soaking-wet mop because even though engineered floors are moisture resistant, it’s never a good idea to drench them completely. Since floorboards are generally pre-finished, waxes or harsh chemical cleaners are generally not recommended.

Just like hardwood floors, if someday your engineered floors lose their luster, you can sand them down and refinish them. This is especially true of engineered flooring boards that are 3/4″ thick as opposed to the thinner 3/8″ variety. In the thicker boards, the veneer is also beefier, so you should be able to refinish them two-to-three times over their lifespan, which is generally considered to be 40 – 80 years—a long life indeed for a product that can be had for as little as $1.69 per square foot.

 

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


How To: Install a Sump Pump

If you have a wet basement, installing a sump pump can have significant payoffs. Not only will a sump pump help control basement moisture and protect your home and foundation, but it will greatly add to your peace of mind. So dig in!

Photo: harrycaswell.com

In an ideal world, there’d be no basement flooding. But in reality, despite our best efforts to address the underlying issue, basement moisture remains a sometimes expensive, always exasperating difficulty for many homeowners. In one way of looking at it, by installing a sump pump you may be treating the symptom and not the disease—the source of the moisture. But in the absence of superior, inexpensive options, a sump pump is an effective stopgap. Bear in mind that the technology doesn’t do anything complicated: Essentially, it collects floodwater and then pumps it away to the outdoors, where it can drain safely into the ground. Although—or perhaps because—a sump pump operates so simply, installing one can make a world of difference. Read on to learn how to install a sump pump in your basement.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Electric submersible sump pump
- Sump pump basin
- Sledge or jackhammer
- Flexible discharge hose (or PVC and glue)
- Check valve
- Hose clamps
- Filter fabric
- Gravel
- Cement
- One paver that will fit in the bottom of the basin
- Drill/driver with hole-saw bit
- Weatherproof caulk

STEP 1
Identify the lowest point in your basement, the area where you usually first notice moisture accumulation. Here, dig a hole wide and deep enough to accommodate the sump pump (the top edge of which should ultimately sit flush with floor level). Of course, when your basement floor is concrete, digging a hole is more easily said than done. To break through, you need to use either a sledge or jackhammer. After penetrating the masonry, continue digging until the cavity can fit the pump basin.

STEP 2
The most effective sump pumps typically feature weep holes, which allow water to enter from the sides and from beneath. If yours doesn’t have these important perforations, take the time to drill them yourself. Next, wrap a layer of filter fabric around the basin exterior to prevent silt and sludge from clogging the basin. Add two or three inches of gravel to the bottom of the hole you created, then place a paver or fieldstone over those pebbles in order to establish a stable platform. Now place the sump pump into the hole, backfilling around its perimeter with excavated dirt. At this point, the unit shouldn’t wobble even if you gently jostle it.

STEP 3
For the sump pump to do its job, its float valve must be able to move freely up and down. When the water level rises, so too does the float—and when it does, the sump turns on. It’s crucial to test the float valve before going any further. Move it up and down with your hand to make sure there’s nothing obstructing it.

Of equal importance is the check valve, which channels water away from (never back into) the sump. Between the valve and the home exterior, run either a flexible discharge hose or a span of PVC pipe (with glued joints and, if necessary, elbows). Where the output meets the basement wall, make a hole big enough for the hose or pipe to fit through. To do so, use a drill/driver fitted with a hole-saw bit. Once you’ve run the pipe through the hole, caulk around it to fill any gaps, large or small.

STEP 5
Finally, plug in the pump and give it a test run. Fill the basin with water nearly to the top. The float should rise, the pump should turn on, and the water should pump out. Inspect the connections for leaks, and if all is in working order, place the lid over the basin. The very last thing to do is cover the hole surrounding the pump. This typically involves cement: Mix up a small batch to the consistency of peanut butter then spread it around to conceal all but the sump pump lid.

Finished! The next time a big storm comes your way, you can rest assured that you won’t have to run downstairs in a frenzy to rev up the wet/dry vac!


How To: Remove a Stripped Screw

Even the most conscientious DIYer is bound to strip the occasional screw. Don't let this annoyance get in your way! Next time, try one of these useful tips for removing a stripped screw. You'll be back to work in no time.

How to Remove Stripped Screws

Photo: w6rec.com

It was supposed to be a quick and easy repair. But darn it, one of the screws wouldn’t budge, and so by the time you finally finished, it had grown dark outside. Yes, stripped screws are extremely frustrating, but they’re not impossible to deal with. In fact, it can be pretty easy to remove a stripped screw. If you don’t own a screw extractor—a special tapered drill bit with a square head—then all you need to know are a handful of (lifesaving) tips. Scroll down to see what they are.

 

1. RUBBER BANDS

How to Remove Stripped Screws - Rubber Bands

Photo: shutterstock.com

Before trying anything else, try this: Put a rubber band over the stripped screw, firmly insert the point of your screwdriver, then slowly unscrew the fastener. Don’t have access to a rubber band? Substitute a bit of steel wool instead or some of the green abrasive from the scouring side of a sponge.

 

2. PLIERS

How to Remove Stripped Screw - Pliers

Photo: shutterstock.com

Inspect the screw head closely. Is there any daylight between it and the surface to which it’s fastened. If so, see if you can get hold of the screw with a pair of locking pliers, also known as vise grips. Provided that the tool has a firm grip on the screw, you should be able to turn the pliers until the screw loosens and pulls away.

 

3. HAMMER 

How to Remove Stripped Screws - Hammer

Photo: shutterstock.com

Use a hammer to tap the screwdriver down, lodging it as firmly as you can into the screw head. Doing so may provide the extra grip you need to twist the fastener, especially if it’s made of soft metal—and, of course, soft metal screws are the kind that are most likely to become stripped in the first place.

 

4. FLAT-HEAD SCREWDRIVER

How to Remove Stripped Screws - Screwdriver

Photo: shutterstock.com

Does the stripped screw have a Phillips head? If so, reach for a flat-head screwdriver narrow enough to fit (in its entirety) within the Phillips-head hole. Keep in mind that it takes real muscle to pull this off. To facilitate things, it’s smart to combine this clever strategy with the rubber band method described in Option 1.

 

5. OSCILLATING TOOL

How to Remove Stripped Screws - Dremel

Photo: shutterstock.com

If there’s a Dremel in your workshop—and if you’re a committed DIYer, you probably should own one of these handy oscillating tools—affix the metal-cutting disc and create a new, deeper slot in the screw head. Follow up with a flat-head screwdriver, pressing it firmly into the indentation and twisting it slowly.

 

6. DRILL

How to Remove Stripped Screws - Drill

Photo: shutterstock.com

Sometimes drilling a small hole into a stripped screw can allow your screwdriver to reach deeper into—and achieve a better grip on—the stuck fastener. If you’re going to try this approach, make certain to use a drill bit designed for use on metal, not wood. And don’t drill too far down; the screw head could pop off!

 

7. NUT

How to Remove Stripped Screws - Nuts

Photo: shutterstock.com

If you’re experienced with welding and have the necessary equipment on hand—and you really want to remove that pesky stripped screw—here’s a last-ditch effort you can make. Spot-weld a nut to the top of the screw head, wait a sufficient period of time, then remove both screw and nut by means of a socket wrench.

Armed with all these tips, the next time you strip a screw you can rest assured it’s not the end of the world—it’s just another solvable, albeit annoying, problem. No single trick works every time, but once you’re familiar with the options at your disposal, you’ll gradually learn to recognize which scenarios call for which particular solution.


Vinyl Siding vs. Fiber Cement: Which Is Right for Your Home?

Choosing the right siding material for your home is a decision that's based on many factors, from good looks to cost. But as you're weighing the options, don't ignore important considerations like durability and ease of maintenance. You want good looks that last!

Vinyl Clapboard Siding

Photo: Vinyl Siding Institute

Choosing the cladding material for the exterior of your home involves the careful evaluation of several factors. Of course, there’s the look. Cedar shake shingles will create a different look than aluminum siding, which will look different than painted wood planks. But there are also other factors to consider. First is the durability of the material. Second is the amount of maintenance your siding will require to keep it looking fresh and tidy. Third is the cost. And finally, consider the siding’s energy efficiency and eco-friendliness, and how well it will insulate your home from both heat and cold.

Two of the more popular siding choices for today’s homes are vinyl and fiber cement. To figure out which siding might be right for you, read this quick guide to each material’s characteristics and qualities.

BASICS
Fiber-cement siding is made from a mix of wood pulp and Portland cement that’s formed into long boards or shingles. It’s attached to your home directly with nails.

Vinyl siding is made primarily from PVC, a rigid plastic material, and is securely affixed to your home’s exterior in a manner that allows it to expand and contract with changing temperatures. According to U.S. Census Bureau data, vinyl is the number-one exterior wall material—and has been for 20 years.

Hand-Split Cedar Vinyl Siding

Hand-split cedar vinyl siding. Photo: Vinyl Siding Institute

LOOK
Both fiber-cement and vinyl siding have come a long way from their origins. It’s possible to buy fiber-cement boards as half-round, staggered, or square shingles as well as in long plank boards. It can be painted or stained, which means you can make it any color you’d like, and it’s also now possible to buy prepainted fiber cement siding in a range of colors so that you can eliminate this step.

Vinyl siding offers a much greater variety of decorative options, from maintaining the appearance of an historic home to creating a clean and modern facade. In fact, no other siding option offers such a range of styles and colors. Available are not only the shingle and plank looks of fiber-cement siding, but also a variety of panel designs including clapboard, board and batten, and Dutch lap. Among the most popular vinyl siding products are those with a grain-finished surface that mimics real wood, or those that look like cedar shake shingles. Certain vinyl siding panels can even be hung vertically for a unique and eye-catching look.

ENERGY EFFICIENCY
On their own, both vinyl and fiber-cement siding are relatively thin products that aren’t particularly good insulators, although they are both effective at keeping the elements away from your home.

Where vinyl siding takes the lead is that it is available in an insulated version in which there is a layer of foam adhered between the siding and the walls of your home. This type of vinyl siding increases the insulating ability, or R-value, of the walls by blanketing the house’s studs, which are poor insulators and a source of heat loss through a process known as thermal bridging. Insulated siding also helps keep your house cool in summer by preventing the sun’s heat from toasting the walls of your house.

In addition to the energy benefits you can get for your home from vinyl siding, it’s also a lightweight product. This means that it doesn’t take as much fuel to move the siding from its manufacturing facilities to your house, which ups the material’s eco-friendly factor.

Vinyl Shake Siding

Vinyl shake siding. Photo: Vinyl Siding Institute

DURABILITY
Compared with wood, both vinyl siding and fiber cement are very durable exterior cladding options. Vinyl siding, however, edges out its heavier cousin because fiber cement has been known to absorb water, which can cause it—and the walls of your home underneath—to rot.

Because of vinyl siding’s flexibility, it’s also virtually impervious to chips and cracks. That’s not the case for fiber cement, which is so rigid that it can easily crack both during the installation process and after it’s hanging on your home.

Vinyl siding, including insulated siding, is the only exterior cladding with a product certification program administered by an independent, accredited quality-control agency that ensures products and colors meet or exceed the industry standard for performance.

MAINTENANCE
Here’s where vinyl siding pulls way ahead of fiber cement. When fiber cement is installed, it needs to be caulked and painted (unless you opt for the prepainted version), unlike vinyl siding, which needs no additional work before or after installation. Over the long haul, you’ll need to paint fiber-cement siding periodically because it will fade due to the demands of Mother Nature. Likewise, you’ll need to ensure that the caulking in the joints maintains its integrity to avoid water intrusion.

Vinyl siding, on the other hand, needs little more than a periodic spray cleaning with your garden hose and some soapy water to retain its vibrant look.

Half-Round Vinyl Siding

Half-round vinyl siding. Photo: Vinyl Siding Institute

COST
According to the RSMeans 2014 Residential Cost Data report, the installed cost of vinyl siding is, on average, $201 per 100 square feet, while fiber cement totals $300 for the same area. The installation costs alone for vinyl are also lower, at an average of $104 versus $124.

In addition to saving on the initial cost of purchasing and installing vinyl siding, you’ll also save money over the lifetime of owning your home as it needs no painting or recaulking, unlike fiber cement. Plus, if you choose to use insulated vinyl siding, you’ll save additional money on your heating and cooling costs.

Finally, according to Remodeling magazine’s 2013–14 Cost vs. Value Report, vinyl siding and insulated siding will recoup more than 78 percent of their installed cost when it comes time to sell your house—a house whose siding will likely look just as good when you sell as the day you put it up!

 

This post has been brought to you by the Vinyl Siding Institute. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.


Pro Tips: Basement Waterproofing

There are a variety of possible causes of a wet basement. Although structural problems are often to blame, poor drainage or plumbing leaks can also trigger moisture or flooding. Here, a basement waterproofing pro reviews the likely culprits and how they can best be dealt with.

Photo: All-Dry of the Carolinas

A clean, dry basement—there, doesn’t that sound nice? Yet the fact is, many of us live with basements that are damp, which makes them unpleasant to visit and inhospitable for our belongings. To find out what makes a basement damp and what can be done about it, we reached out to John Mitchell, owner of All-Dry of the Carolinas, a basement moisture problem-solver based in South Carolina. According to Mitchell, there are three common causes of flooded or damp basements: backfill saturation, surface water, and plumbing leaks.

BACKFILL SATURATION
Backfill saturation causes water to enter the basement due to what is known as the “Clay Bowl Effect,” says Mitchell, which is a result of the way in which your foundation was installed. First, a big hole was made in the earth and then the foundation was poured, leaving a gap between the foundation walls and the existing earth. That gap was filled with the soil that had been removed and “fluffed up.” Because this soil is looser and more aerated than the soil around it, which may have been compressing for hundreds of years, it tends to absorb more water than the compacted soil does, much like a sponge in comparison with a brick.

More water against your house leads to hydrostatic pressure. This basically means that water, which is heavy, presses up against your foundation and can then find its way in through cracks, windows, openings around pipes, or even through the concrete itself, which is porous.

Mitchell says that it’s possible to waterproof a foundation in the building stages, but that doesn’t always happen. “When a basement is constructed,” he says, “either a damp-proof or waterproof coating is applied to below-grade walls, then a footing drain with gravel is placed beside the foundation and drained to daylight before the gap is backfilled.”

DryTrak basement foundation drain

Photo: basementsystemsquebec.com

So what can go wrong? According to Mitchell, contractors will sometimes opt for damp-proofing rather than waterproofing to save money. But there’s an issue with that approach. “Damp-proofing, which can be sprayed on or applied with a paint roller or brush, will not bridge the cracks that result from the normal settling of your house.”

Waterproofing, on the other had, is much more effective because the coating is typically 40 millimeters thick and is either sprayed on or installed as a membrane.

So what can be done if you find out that your basement is leaking due to a structural problem? One solution Mitchell’s company recommends is the installation of a perimeter drainage system around the edges of the basement floor inside the house. Some of these systems involve jackhammering the concrete floor of the basement around the edges to install the drain, but other systems, such as DryTrak, can be installed above the floor. Both systems allow water to enter but then quickly collect it and funnel it away to a sump pump that delivers it to an adequate drainage site outside the home.

SURFACE WATER
Other issues that could lead to a moist basement include incorrect grading and drainage around the home. Mitchell explains: “The perimeter footing drain may be installed too high and may not drain to daylight. Not having used enough gravel may be part of the issue since gravel is expensive. Another possibility is that the gutter’s downspouts may not extend beyond the backfill or gutters may be clogged and overflowing onto the backfill. Or the grade may leave surface water pooling next to the house, and as this water enters the backfill it can carry loose soil particles to the footing drain, at some point clogging the drain and giving you backfill saturation. Surface water can also cause basement flooding by running or pooling next to the house and running over the foundation wall. This is why good grading and extending gutter downspouts away from the house is important. Have your gutters cleaned after the leaves stop falling,” he advises.

If your water leakage problem isn’t foundation-wide, a basement waterproofing expert can determine if it’s entering through cracks in the floor or windows and repair those cracks to keep it from coming back.

PLUMBING WOES
Sometimes water in the basement isn’t the fault of the foundation. The moisture may simply be due to a leaky water heater or pipe. “Leaking water heaters, plumbing leaks, and burst washing machine hoses are the leading sources of homeowner insurance claims,” says Mitchell.

So how to combat these plumbing problems?

Mitchell advises: “You could put the water heater in a containment system with a water watch alarm to issue a warning should it begin to leak. You could put a quality hose set on your washing machine rather than the five dollar set of hoses that the washer came with. You could also have a sump system in the low spot of the basement with an airtight floor drain incorporated into the lid of the sump. This would keep your basement from filling up with water should a leak occur in your domestic water system.”

This is certainly a wise move. Mitchell notes that “a burst washing machine hose with 50 pounds of pressure will flow 500 gallons per hour,” which could quickly turn your basement into a swimming pool. And while an in-home pool might sound nice, that’s probably not the best way to go about getting one.


Planning Guide: Driveways

Whether you want a driveway that is simple and functional or eye-catching and elegant, you need to consider a number of factors and options to achieve the best results.

Building a Driveway

Photo: shutterstock.com

Why do we drive on the parkway and park on the driveway? That’s just one of life’s little mysteries, but there’s no mystery involved in creating a beautiful and practical driveway—just some thoughtful planning. Your driveway makes a big first impression, whether you realize it or not. Its size, shape, and surface material are certainly important considerations. So too are other aesthetic and practical issues, such as the architectural style of your house, the amount of space you have, how many vehicles you need to accommodate, and even the part of the country where you reside. Use this driveway planning guide to help you determine the best driveway for you and your home.

Slope and Width 
Although you’ll be constrained by the natural topography of your property, there’s definitely a desirable “sweet spot” for the slope of a driveway, neither too flat nor too steep. If it’s too flat, drainage may become an issue, and if it’s too steep, the surface becomes slippery and dangerous. As a general rule, a driveway should be less than a 15% grade, which means that it should not rise more than 15 feet over a distance of 100 feet. If your driveway is completely flat, however, be sure to build up the middle so water runs off the sides and doesn’t pool. Also, you’ll need to direct the runoff to an appropriate place. If your driveway is very steep and long, you may have to add curves or switchbacks to reduce the slope.

Another general rule is that your driveway should be around 10 to 12 feet wide, and a few feet wider at the curves. If you have space, it’s always a good idea to provide a larger area at the top for turning around or for additional parking when needed. A 12’x18’ space or larger is ideal for this.

Straight, Curved, or Circular?
This decision is partly aesthetic and partly functional. In general, a curved driveway will add more character and depth than a straight driveway, but if you have limited space or a very short distance from the street to your garage, then straight will have to do. You can add character to a straight driveway using interesting borders, stamped concrete, color variations, or intricate patterns. Long, straight driveways can also be very attractive if they are lined with trees and frame the property as you approach.

Building a Driveway - Pavers

Photo: landscapingnetwork.com

Sometimes a curved driveway may actually function better, not just look better. This may be the case if there are obstructions in the direct path to the garage, such as trees or other landscaping features, or if your access point from the street doesn’t line up with the garage or parking area. If you do decide on a curved driveway, the curves should be gradual and sweeping, never tight and cramped.

Circular driveways offer the benefit of not having to back out; if you live on a busy street, this may be an important consideration. Keep in mind, however, that if you don’t have a garage and you have more than one vehicle using the driveway, then only the first car in has the luxury of not backing out. A variation, the teardrop driveway, is similar in that it splits off into two paths, but it has only one access point from the street. Either way, a circular drive will take up quite a bit of real estate in your front yard, so this isn’t the best choice for everyone.

Curb Appeal
The main purpose of your driveway is utilitarian, but there’s no denying the impact it has on your home’s curb appeal. When you’re planning your driveway, consider how it will look and how it will tie in to the rest of your property. To get ideas, take notice of other driveways in your neighborhood and think about what you like and don’t like about them. You can still create a unique design, but there’s nothing wrong with surveying what’s already been done and borrowing a few ideas. Consider adding plants, lighting, or a front gate if you really want to boost your curb appeal.

Materials
There are quite a few choices when it comes to the material for your driveway. The most common options are gravel, asphalt, cement, and pavers. Within each category there are plenty of variations as well. Your budget will dictate the material to some degree—we have listed them from least to most expensive—but other practical and aesthetic considerations will come into play too. Just a few of these are the slope of your lot, the style of your home, and the severity of the weather in your neck of the woods. Here’s a quick rundown of each material’s pros and cons.

Building a Driveway - Gravel

Photo: premierdriveways.net

Gravel  This is the most affordable option, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it is inferior. If installed correctly with properly compacted subgrade, durable block edging, and a shallow surface layer of pea gravel, you can create a driveway that will stand the test of time without requiring an unreasonable amount of maintenance or loss of aesthetic appeal.

A well-designed and properly built gravel driveway is especially attractive for certain styles of home. Plus, gravel has the added benefits of providing quick water drainage and never cracking or splitting. To add character to a gravel driveway, use decorative edging to contain the gravel, and pick a gravel color that will complement your home and yard.

Keep in mind that weeds and grass can grow through gravel fairly easily if landscape fabric or some other underlayment is not installed. Also, if your driveway is too sloped, gravel may not be ideal because it will slide down. And if you live in a colder climate, plowing snow from a gravel driveway can be a hassle.

Asphalt and Cement Asphalt and cement are both very durable and popular choices for driveways. Asphalt is typically cheaper, although the price has recently risen along with the cost of oil, so the savings here are not what they used to be. Both materials are versatile. They can be colored, stamped, engraved, stained, or grooved to add interesting aesthetic dimensions. Over time, however, they can also crack and split, and collect stains from oil and tires. Also, because these materials are not permeable, the driveway must be designed with water drainage issues in mind and properly sealed. But overall, they are both solid choices.

Building a Driveway - Pavers 2

Photo: landscapeodandbeyond.com

Pavers Considered the most sophisticated option, pavers are also the most expensive. They’re also endlessly versatile when it comes to shapes, sizes, colors, and patterns. Pavers are very durable and they tend to have good drainage properties, because water can escape through the gaps. Unlike asphalt and concrete, pavers don’t generally crack or split, and small areas are easy to replace if problems ever do occur. Permeable interlocking pavers have become very popular lately. These are engineered with uniform gaps and installed on a granular base rock to allow very efficient water runoff. They have a clean look and are available in different shapes, sizes, and tones.

This planning guide should get you well on your way to designing a driveway that adds curb appeal, functions properly, and suits your particular needs and style. Our last bit of advice is to think long term; you don’t want to revisit this project in the future. Resist cutting corners to save a little time or money. Remember, nothing is more expensive or time-consuming than doing the job right the second time.


5 Smart Energy-Saving Investments for Your Next Home

A new home is just about the biggest purchase most of us will ever make. Incorporating some smart energy-efficient technologies into that home is a great, ecologically responsible way to recoup at least a little bit of that huge pile of money over the years.

Shutterstock

Photo: Shutterstock

If you live in an older home, the prospect of retrofitting it to be more energy efficient might send cold shivers down your spine—even chillier than that bracing breeze leaking in through your improperly sealed window. There are definitely steps you can take to get an older house into better shape, but you have more options and greater control over energy-efficient features in a new home, your next home. In the interest of planning ahead, here are some energy-saving must-haves to consider when you’re building your next home.

PREMIUM WINDOWS
Sure, old wood windows add a lot of charm to a home, but they’re also likely to add a lot of cost to your heating bill because they don’t incorporate any of the energy-saving features of today’s products. In fact, one of the single best ways to make a home energy efficient is to install good-quality windows. The U.S. government’s Energy Star program rates windows using data provided by the National Fenestration Rating Council, so look for the Energy Star label when choosing your new windows. Also, the Efficient Windows Collaborative provides a handy tool to help you pick out the right windows for the part of the country in which you live. In general, you’ll want double- or triple-paned windows with Low-E glass, filled with argon gas.

TANKLESS WATER HEATERS
The idea of keeping a big barrel of water hot all day just so it’s there when you need it seems kind of old-fashioned, doesn’t it? But that’s exactly what most water heaters across America do. A more efficient option is to go with a tankless water heater, which fires up only when water passes through it. This means there’s no standby heat loss and the heater never runs out of hot water like its bigger, bloated cousins. Not only can tankless water heaters save you money on your heating bill, but many come with a federal tax rebate of $300. Tankless water heaters can be run off your electrical service or via gas or propane, but be aware that the latter kind might need special venting while the former might need an extra circuit—both good things to know as you’re building your new home.

RADIANT FLOOR HEATING

Warmboard

Photo: Warmboard

Not only does radiant floor heating feel more comfortable, it’s more efficient as well. That’s because unlike “spot” heating solutions, like radiators or forced-air vents in the floor and ceiling, this type of heating provides an all-over warmth that not only keeps the air toasty, but also keeps other objects in the room warm so that they don’t rob heat. One of the most efficient radiant floor heating systems on the market is Warmboard. Unlike their competitors, Warmboard uses conductive heating panels that transfer more heat from your boiler to your home. In fact, their panels are two-and-a-half times more conductive than any other form of radiant heat, making them a smart energy choice for heating. And, the new Total Warmth System from Warmboard makes installation—and cost—even more manageable for homeowners looking for a radiant floor solution. The Total Warmth System is designed with energy efficiency in mind. It’s a complete package that includes a heater, super-efficient floor panels with superior conductivity, and thermostats for zoned heating.

INSULATION
If you’re building a new home from scratch, one of the most efficient ways to keep it warm is to use insulated concrete forms, which essentially incorporate the insulation directly into the structure of the house. If you’re purchasing an existing structure that has shoddy insulation, you can beef it up with spray foam, loose fill cellulose, or fiberglass—all good options. Insulation is rated in terms of its R-value, a measure of its thermal resistance; the higher the number, the greater the insulation’s effectiveness, so be sure to compare R-values when you’re choosing insulation. Energy Star offers this useful chart to help you determine how much insulation you need to add to an existing building.

Solatube

Photo: Solatube Smart LED

SKYLIGHTS
Replacing your bulbs with compact fluorescents is a good way to save energy, but do you want to know an even better way? Don’t use light bulbs at all! That’s the benefit that comes from installing high-quality skylights in your home. By using skylights or solar tubes, you can bring illumination to even the darkest parts of your home and decrease your reliance on electricity to light your way. Skylights can also lower your heating costs by bringing the warmth of the sun in throughout the colder months. If you install operable skylights, you can even lower cooling costs by allowing hot air to escape in the summer. To maximize a skylight’s heating benefits, it’s important that it be installed at the proper slope. According to Energy.gov, a skylight’s slope should be “equal to your geographical latitude plus 5 to 15 degrees. For example, the optimum slope for a south-facing skylight in Columbus, Ohio, at 40 degrees north latitude, is 45 degrees to 55 degrees.” If you place your skylight on too shallow an angle, you’ll let in too much sun in the warmer months and capture less in the winter.

 

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


Repair Drywall with Less Hassle

If you’re armed with the right tools and a little know-how, you’ll never even think about hiring someone to handle this simple task again.

Drywall repair

Photo: HYDE Tools

Let’s be honest. Drywall repair is not something most people look forward to. Although it’s relatively straightforward in theory, if you have ever done it then you know that the dry time of the mud and all the dust created by sanding can turn the task into a big hassle. If you’ve repaired drywall before and your results didn’t turn out as seamless as you had envisioned, then you may be inclined to pay someone else to deal with it next time. Before you tackle the job again (or just throw in the towel), check out these helpful hints that will make drywall repairs easier and smoother.

HYDE bear claw repair clips

HYDE Bear Claw Drywall Repair Clips in use.

Patching large holes
If you have a large hole to repair, the first thing you need to do is cut a square piece of new drywall larger than the area you are repairing. Hold the new piece over the hole and trace around it. (Be sure to mark the top of the patch as a reference for when you install it as it’s not likely to be a perfect square.) With a drywall saw, cut along the lines that you just traced. The new hole is now ready to accept the drywall patch.

There are several ways to keep the new piece flush with the existing drywall, but the easiest way is to use Bear Claw Drywall Repair Clips from HYDE Tools. Simply clip them on the drywall and slide it into place; no nails, screws, or tools required. Apply drywall tape or HYDE’s Wet & Set (in roll form) over the clips and seams, and you’re ready to finish with mud—in other words, joint compound.

Patching small holes
For holes smaller than a baseball but bigger than a nail hole, there’s an easier patching solution than cutting a new piece of drywall. HYDE’s Wet & Set Repair Patch is a flexible sheet of water-activated patching material that dries within 30 minutes. It is impregnated with joint compounds and polymers specifically designed for patching walls and ceilings. Simply cut the patch to the size you need, dip it in water, and smooth it over the hole. After about 30 minutes it’s ready for finishing with mud.

Mudding
Regardless of which method you used, once the patch is in place, it’s time for finishing. Apply a thin coat of mud over the patch, making sure to overlap a few inches onto the existing wall surface. The key here is to use a joint knife in order to get the most uniform results. (Don’t use a narrow spackling knife that you might use to fill nail holes.) Also, don’t apply too much mud; a thin coat is more desirable and will make sanding that much easier. Wait for it to dry, and apply a second thin coat until smooth and seamless.

Sanding
Sanding is the messiest part of the job because the fine dust gets everywhere. Even if you cover your furniture and floors with plastic, dust still seems to infiltrate every nook and cranny. The best investment you can make here is HYDE’s Dust-Free Sponge Sander. It connects to wet/dry vacuums equipped with fine dust filters to remove dust while you are sanding. This tool is particularly useful for any drywall repair job in a finished area of your home. Remember, the key to effective sanding is to use long and broad strokes so you seamlessly blend in the dried mud. Avoid getting carried away and sanding too much—you don’t want to expose any clips or edges of the patch.

Note: Before you paint, make sure the patched area feels smooth. With your eye close to and parallel to the wall, look down to see if it’s completely flat (doing so now will eliminate the pesky “hump” that sometimes becomes visible after painting). Also, don’t forget to prime the patched spot before painting or the finish will look dull compared with the rest of the wall.

Following these simple tips and techniques can take the headache out of drywall repair and save you from calling in a pro for such a small job. Plus, when you’re all done, you get to enjoy the satisfying feeling of stepping back and admiring your work—even though in this case your work will be completely undetectable!

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


How To: Build a Temporary Wall

If you need to divide a shared kids' room or transform a corner alcove into a home office, then a temporary wall may be just the ticket.

Photo: lawallco.com

If you can’t live with the layout of your space, a temporary wall may be just the solution you need. For decades, renters have relied on temporary walls to “make it work” under less-than-ideal circumstances. Homeowners too can benefit from temporary walls: Building one enables you to judge whether a planned change is worth pursuing. And because a temporary wall does not tie into the framing, removing it is easily done, with a minimum of mess.

Note: Before you undertake to build a temporary wall, be sure that you check local building codes, paying close attention to relevant stipulations. Contact your municipal building department for clarification, if necessary. Renters are advised to ask the building owner or management company for permission.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Sill seal
- 2x4s (quantity and lengths depend on wall size)
- Wooden shims
- Drywall
- Nails or screws
- Circular saw
- Drill
- Hammer

Sill seal is foreign to many do-it-yourselfers, even those who’ve successfully completed scores of projects. Here, the 1/4-inch-thick foam performs two functions. First, it protects the existing floor, walls, and ceiling from damage. Second, and more importantly, the sill seal provides the pressure needed to secure the temporary wall wherever you choose to position it. Before doing anything else, apply the sill seal to those surfaces with which the temporary wall is going to be in contact.

STEP 1
Cut a pair of 2x4s to the length you want the temporary wall to be. These two pieces of wood are known as the plates; they will form, respectively, the top and bottom margins of the wall. Next, measure the height from floor to ceiling. Because that height may vary, it’s wise to measure twice: once for the left edge of the temporary wall, then again for the right edge. Subtract three inches from each measurement, then cut a 2×4 to correspond to each length. These are the end studs.

How to Build a Temporary Wall - Studs

Photo: finehomebuilding.com

STEP 2
Set the bottom plate over the sill seal you’ve already applied to the floor. Next, ask a helper to hold up the top plate—with sill seal between the board and ceiling—as you wedge the end studs into place. (Remember that sill seal also needs to run along the existing walls against which you are placing the vertical members.) If either stud needs persuading to fit snugly between the plates, tap it in with a hammer. Are the studs too tall? Trim off some height with a sander or circular saw, then try your luck again. With short studs, use one or more wooden shims to close the gap.

STEP 3
Now that you’ve established the wall perimeter, fasten the end studs into the plates by means of either nails or screws (the latter are easier to remove). For added stability, particularly if you have kids or plan to install a door, it’s smart to nail or screw the top plate to the nearest ceiling joist.

STEP 4
Install the remaining studs at intervals of 16 or 24 inches. (At this point, if you’d like to inhibit the transmission of sound through the temporary wall, add batt fiberglass insulation in the stud cavities.) Finally, put up the drywall panels; for ease of removal later, screws are recommended.

STEP 5
Finish the wall however you please. Some may be perfectly satisfied with the rudimentary look of unfinished drywall. Others may choose to paint the surface or even to install baseboard. Much depends on the purpose of the temporary wall, but it’s certainly possible to make it resemble your permanent walls. But remember, the more you add on, the more you’ll eventually need to take off.

Follow your design sense and do what makes you happy. After all, it’s your (newly defined) space!


5 Home Maintenance Tips for Spring

Now that spring has arrived, here's a look at some basic exterior maintenance projects you should undertake now to get your home into shape for the summer months ahead.

Prepping Spring Garden

Photo: thegazette.com

Nothing renews that feeling of pride of ownership more than attending to annual home maintenance tasks (especially once they are completed and behind you). Now that spring has arrived, it’s time to investigate the condition of your home’s exterior, including everything from the roof, gutters, siding, and foundation, to the lawn, shrubs, trees, and garden. The chore isn’t so bad, and with a plan—and the right tools—you can make short work of many of these common tasks:

Inspecting — Spring is a good time to see what damage winter storms, snow, and ice may have done to the exterior of your home  Take this time to inspect the roof; you can do it easily and safely from the ground with a pair of binoculars. Look for loose, curled, or missing shingles and any bent or damaged flashing around chimneys, skylights, or points where the roof makes contact with the house. Note where repairs are in order and make sure to get them done. Next, clean out your gutters and downspouts. With those spring showers on the way, you definitely want to make sure your gutters are clear of debris so that they function properly. Also use this time to inspect your home’s foundation and chimney; repair any cracks or crumbles. Small fixes now could save you money and headaches later.

Pruning — Your trees and bushes will look and grow a lot better if you remove dead, damaged, or overhanging branches. The main thing to remember here is to cut the entire branch off at the branch collar, which is the point where the branch connects to the trunk or another branch. Don’t leave little half branches or big stubs. You’ll get the best results using a handsaw or hand pruner, and it’s well worth investing in an extendable pruning saw with clippers if you have some branches that are just out of reach. Be sure to wear safety glasses and a hard hat if you are cutting branches directly overhead.

Hyde Pivot Jet Pro

Photo: Hyde PivotJet Pro

Cleaning — There’s certainly no shortage of things to clean outside when the spring season hits. The HYDE PivotJet Pro can help with almost any cleaning task and lets you get the job done with ease. It connects to your garden hose so there is no bulky or noisy engine to cart around or electric cord to wrestle. Its powerful spray provides superior cleaning without the risk of damage associated with pressure washers. Use it to clean siding, windows, foundations, decks, gutters, patio furniture, grills, driveways, pool areas, fences, mowers, and more. The HYDE PivotJet Pro consists of a spray wand with a pivot nozzle head that gets into hard-to-reach spots, and a built-in liquid cleaner reservoir that can be adjusted or turned completely off as needed. It’s much easier to use than a pressure washer, and much more affordable as well.

Touch-up PaintingExterior paint takes a beating throughout the year, so touching up those areas of your house, fence, or shed where paint is starting to fail is a good way to avoid long-term damage and make everything look new and fresh. This isn’t a task you want to revisit every year, so it is crucial to follow the proper steps for prepping, priming, and repainting.

Garden Prepping — If you enjoy growing a vegetable or flower garden, then you have some prep work to do before it’s ready for seed or seedlings. Removing weeds and leaves, tilling or turning the soil, testing the soil, and adding the appropriate fertilizers are just a few tasks that you can start doing now. You might want to consider adding a motorized tiller to your arsenal of tools if you plan on keeping a good-size garden every year. If you get a jump on prepping your garden early in the season, you will have more time later to enjoy the fun part—watching your garden grow!

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