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How To: Install a Prehung Door

Prehung doors can make your life much easier, but you still need to know a few essentials in order to get the job done right.

How to Install a Prehung Door - Detail

Photo: mobilenewsblog.net

Doors come in countless different sizes and styles—from modern, flush interior doors with standard dimensions to massive, traditionally designed entryways. By comparison, there are dramatically fewer installation methods; in fact, there are only two. A door is either prehung in its own jamb, or it’s not. Installing a prehung door is considerably less complicated, but that doesn’t mean there’s no sweat involved. The following tips can help you avoid common setbacks.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- 6-foot level
- Wooden shims
- 2-1/2-inch finish nails
- Hammer and nails (or nail gun)

It’s no problem to stray somewhat from the steps outlined here, but remember that no matter the techniques used, the goals always stay the same: Get the door jamb level and plumb; keep it flush with the drywall surrounding it; and maintain a uniform 1/8-inch reveal (the space between the door and the jamb).

STEP 1
When you set out to install a prehung door, begin by measuring the rough opening into which you are placing it. The opening should be one or two inches larger than the door itself. That wiggle room enables you to shim the door, bringing it to the level-and-plumb position critical to proper functioning.

How to Install a Prehung Door - Bob Vila

Photo: familyhandyman.com

STEP 2
Set the door into the rough opening. Has flooring not yet been installed  beyond the threshold? In that case, shim beneath the door jamb to account for the height that will be added once the floor’s installed.

STEP 3
Next, make sure the hinge side of the door is plumb, meaning perfectly vertical. Having checked that the door is still centered within the opening, stabilize it by adding shims to both sides, near the top. Check the alignment using a level. If the door’s plumb, hold the hinge side so that it’s flush with the adjacent drywall, then nail into the jamb at the point behind which you added shims. Go on to place shims in a few more positions along the hinge side; check level once more; then nail through the jamb wherever you shimmed.

STEP 4
Close the door and confirm that its top portion is level. Don’t waste time reaching for a measuring tool, though, if you notice the reveal isn’t uniform between the door and the jamb. That’s a sure sign things are amiss. Make adjustments by shimming the latch side of the door. Shim less when there’s too little reveal; shim more when there’s too much of one. Continue tinkering until the reveal along the top is uniform.

STEP 5
On the latch side of the door, bring the jamb flush to the adjacent drywall. The reveal ought to be 1/8-inch here; if it’s not, then adjust the shimming you have added already near the top of the door on this latch side. Once finished, nail through the jamb where you have shimmed. Now place additional shims six inches from the bottom of the door, as well as above and below where the strike plate will go. So long as the reveal remains uniform, proceed to nail the jamb at each position where you have added shims.

STEP 6
To finish, go ahead and put a few more nails through the shims you nailed previously. Your pre-hung door is now level and plumb, with a uniform reveal!


Planning Guide: Mudrooms

Every house needs a clean, well-organized spot where family and friends can hang their coats, stash their boots, and neatly rest all of their bags, hats, scarves and backpacks. Yes, everyone needs a mudroom—and with careful planning, you can create one that's not just a staging area, but a true command central.

Photo: cynthialynn.com

As the main staging area for arrivals and departures, the mudroom is a much-relied-upon space. If your floor plan doesn’t include a mudroom, you can create one by screening or walling in a section of an existing room, by finishing an attached porch, or by building a small addition. However you go about it, once you have a mudroom, you’ll wonder how you ever survived without one!

LOCATION
Whether you start from scratch or convert an existing room—or part of it—into a mudroom, choose a location that is frequently used by your family to get in and out of the house. Kitchens or pantries with entry doors to the exterior are ideally suited to incorporate a mudroom. Garages are also excellent candidates. Utility or laundry rooms with an outside entrance make good mudrooms as well—you can wash and dry the wet, dirty clothes on the spot! The same is true of basements that are equipped with plumbing and have entry doors to the exterior.

Farmhouse mudroom

Photo: pocketfullofblue.blogspot.com

FLOORING
Because the main function of a mudroom is to keep mud and snow away from the rest of the house, you shouldn’t have to worry about getting the floor dirty—there will be plenty of dirt. So you’ll need to select a durable flooring that is easy to clean.

Tiles make hard-wearing and decorative floors, but for safety reasons choose nonslip styles. Vinyl tile and linoleum flooring is durable and washable too, but make sure that the color and pattern you pick will hide dirt and stains easily. Another good option is concrete. Its easy maintenance makes it perfect for mudroom floors, and when stained, colored, or painted, it can be a very attractive flooring material.

Related: How to Stain Concrete

Whatever you choose as your flooring surface, be sure to place fiber mats or absorbent rugs near the entryway to catch water and dirt before they get tracked through the house. It’s a good idea to install a boot scraper just outside the entrance to your mudroom, so dirt and mud won’t even make it over the threshold.

If you have the budget and your home allows for it, consider installing a drain in the center of the room and angling the floor slightly so that water and slushy, melting snow can drain away and you can easily wash out the room as often as required. If it’s not practical to place a drain in the center of the room, consider putting it in a corner where you can set a mesh rack above it for wet boots and shoes. If a drain is not possible, a sturdy rubber mat with sidewalls should do the trick.

Mudroom  Decor

Photo: bhg.com

EXTRA STORAGE
As any homeowner knows, you can never have enough storage; this is especially true in your mudroom. Because it’s the main pickup and drop-off spot in the house, the mudroom needs to accommodate coats, scarves, boots, cycling helmets, and backpacks—thereby stopping these items from littering entryways, hallways, and bedrooms.

One way to eliminate clutter is to install cabinets fitted with pegs, shelves, and drawers. Assign a specific storage space to each family member. Make them all responsible for putting away their own coats, shoes, and other items they use every day. If the budget allows, include upper cabinets in the plan. They’re great for stashing out-of-season items.

It’s also a good idea to include a storage bench in the mudroom. It’s not only convenient for removing wet shoes, but it also provides a space below where those shoes can be stowed. (And if the bench is sturdy enough, you can use it to reach those handy upper cabinets!) Again, if you are going store your shoes in cubbyholes beneath the bench, use plastic trays or mats cut to size to make cleanup easier.

QUICK EXIT AND ENTRY
Mudrooms can help create a hassle-free start to the day and a relaxing homecoming in the evening—if they’re well organized. As you’re planning, make sure there’s a place for everything. For example, set up decorative bowls or pegs for car keys and keep a notepad by the door for reminders, or even put up a cork board, whiteboard, or chalkboard where family members can leave notes. Set up a charging station for your electronic devices (if your mudroom is heated) so that you won’t forget your phone in the morning. Use pegs or a vintage coat rack to hang dog leashes, shopping bags, and coats so they’re easy to grab quickly. One more practical addition: a mirror to ensure that you leave the house looking well turned out.

WARM WELCOME
Your guests, family members, and even pets will appreciate coming in from the freezing outdoors to a warm and cozy mudroom. To keep the space toasty, you may need to rely on a space heater or heat lamp (which can also help dry damp clothes), or you can connect the room to the home’s central heating or hardwire an electric baseboard system. If you have a pet, once the room is sufficiently heated, you could consider putting a pet bed in a corner and making the room your companion’s special retreat.

In addition to adequate heating, it’s essential to have proper ventilation in a mudroom to keep the air fresh (there are likely to be a lot of shoes here after all!) and to prevent the growth of mildew and mold. If there are no windows in the room that you can open for fresh air, a bathroom-type exhaust fan can do the trick.

CONTROL ROOM
For frequent travelers who worry about bedbugs or dedicated hikers who are concerned about ticks, the mudroom can be a great place to “decontaminate” when you return home. If you have a washer and dryer in the room, simply unpack or undress in the mudroom and start up a laundry cycle. (Keep some robes and slippers in the room to help with this process!) If your laundry facilities aren’t close by, keep plenty of heavy-duty plastic bags on hand to transport clothing from the mudroom to your laundry room.

One final selling point: If you suffer from allergies, a mudroom can be effective in minimizing the amount of outdoor allergens like dust, pollen, and mold that enter the house on your clothing.

CHEERFUL DECOR

Even though it has the word “mud” in its name, your mudroom does not need to be drab. You can paint the walls in bright colors and use color-coded storage units and decorative baskets, making the room lively while still keeping things stored neatly and out of sight. Paint a wall with chalkboard paint and you’ll also have an attractive and useful means of keeping your busy family organized. Installing pendant or recessed lighting instead of fluorescent will make the room feel more like home than a storage area—and, after all, it’s both!


How To: Make Concrete Countertops

Concrete is a striking and practical choice for countertops, made from a DIY-friendly materials that enables any confident homeowner to achieve quality results.

How to Make DIY Concrete Countertops

Photo: craftworkhome.com

The brute strength of concrete has made it the go-to building material for a variety of such outdoor installations as driveways, walkways, and patios. But there are some who love concrete not only for its high durability and low maintenance, but also for its distinctive look. In fact, probably due in part to its affordability, concrete has become a popular countertop material in both kitchens and bathrooms. What makes concrete an even more budget-friendly option is that—in contrast to, say, natural stone—it’s easy to work with. A proficient or even beginning do-it-yourselfer can make a concrete countertop himself, saving the costs associated with hiring a contractor to do it. If you think you’re up to the challenge, scroll down to read the details of the process. Who knows? Soon you might find yourself making concrete countertops the DIY way!

 

1. BUILD THE FORM

How to Make Concrete Countertops - Form

Photo: diynetwork.com

Start by determining the dimensions you want the countertop to be. Next, build a form into which you can pour the concrete so that once it dries, the hardened material will conform more or less exactly to your desired specifications. For this type of concrete form, melamine-coated particleboard works best; it’s readily available, inexpensive, and most important, concrete doesn’t stick to it. Caulk all joints in the melamine construction to ensure that the concrete dries with neat edges. If you have only limited experience with caulk, it’s recommended that you outline the joints with painter’s tape. That way, if you misapply any caulking, you can painlessly correct the mistake by just removing the tape. To smooth any imperfections in the caulk bead, run a wetted finger along the silicone before it dries.

Is your concrete countertop going to be inset with a sink? If so, the form you build must include cutouts for the sink itself and (if necessary) for a faucet. To leave room for these fixtures, you can build recesses into the form (as in the picture above). Or you may be able to get your hands on a foam mold of the sink and its accouterments—manufacturers often make these molds available, not so much for DIYers, but for the contractors who do this stuff every day. Yet another option—perhaps the easiest—is to buy a sheet of high-density foam of the same thickness as your countertop. Cut the foam into pieces of the appropriate length and width, then sand their edges and cover the pieces with foam tape (sold at hardware stores). Finally, use caulk to secure the foam pieces into the right positions within the melamine form.

 

2. REINFORCE THE FORM

How to Make Concrete Countertops - Mesh

Photo: shutterstock.com

Now lightly coat the melamine frame interior with olive oil; doing so will let the concrete slip more easily from the frame later on. Before you can even think about pouring the concrete, however, one essential step remains: adding reinforcement, in the form of steel mesh. For best results, suspend the mesh at the middle point in the vertical height of your melamine form. How? Drill screws into the outside walls of your frame; connect the mesh to the screws via zip ties, strong ties, or even a bungee cord; then extend the metal wiring across the breadth of the frame. Bear in mind that in order for this approach to be successful, you must be careful to mix the concrete to a watery—but not too watery—consistency. If this all sounds painstaking, consider the alternative: Mix the concrete however you like; pour it to fill the form halfway; set in the steel mesh; then fill the rest of the form.

 

3. MIX THE CONCRETE

How to Make Concrete Countertops - Mix

Photo: shutterstock.com

When you’re ready to mix concrete for the project, closely follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Aim to achieve a thick, oatmeal-like consistency. If you find that it’s too hard to work with, add a little water (but only a little). The wetter the concrete, the more brittle it becomes upon drying. Consider augmenting the concrete with additives that inhibit cracking and shrinking. Known as admixtures, these ought to be readily available at your local home improvement retail store.

 

4. POUR THE CONCRETE

How to Make Concrete Countertops - Bob Vila

Photo: shutterstock.com

Pour enough concrete into the form to fill its volume completely, then use your hands to work the material along the edges and into the corners. If you attached the steel mesh reinforcement to the frame itself, cut those connections now. Then proceed to use a flat board, such as a one-by-four, to level, or screed, the concrete. Move the board back and forth in order to smooth the surface and fill low spots. Keep a trowel at the ready, so you can quickly deal with any excess.

Next, use a wood float, raising its leading edge slightly, to smooth the concrete further. Meanwhile, tap the sides of the form gently with a rubber mallet (or grab a partner and shake the form side to side very lightly) so as to create the vibrations necessary to dissipate air bubbles. After letting the concrete harden for a couple of hours, come back to the form and once more run a tool over the concrete surface. This time, reach for the trowel and use it to eliminate any lingering imperfections.

 

5. REMOVE THE FORM

How to Make Concrete Countertops - Remove

Photo: hgtv.com

Lay a plastic sheet over the concrete to prevent it from losing too much of the moisture it needs to cure properly. Generally speaking, the longer you allow the concrete to dry, the stronger it ends up being. For maximum strength, you can let the concrete harden for a period of weeks, but for this purpose leaving it alone for a few days is plenty. Once that time has elapsed, go ahead and remove the melamine frame, then lift the concrete countertop into position on top of your base cabinets.

 

6. FINISH THE JOB

How to Make Concrete Countertops - Finishing

Photo: hgtv.com

There’s a good chance at this point that small cracks or bubbles may be visible in your countertop. If you like them, do nothing. Otherwise, you can perform spot repairs with concrete patching compound. Remember, however, that after applying the patches (and allowing them to dry), you must then sand the countertop with diamond-grit sandpaper (manually or using a power sander). Finally, wash the counter thoroughly, removing all debris and fine particles of dust; let the countertop dry completely, then finish the job by applying a concrete sealer or a coating of food-safe polyurethane (optionally followed by an application of canuba wax).

 

Stand back and admire those concrete results!


How To: Install a Dryer Vent

Having your dryer properly vented is crucial in keeping the appliance operating effectively and avoiding the risk of fire or water damage to your home. Fortunately, installing a dryer vent is easy to do.

Dryer Vent Installation

Photo: familyhandyman.com

Developed in 19th-century England, the first mechanized clothes dryers were perforated barrels that rotated over flames. Today’s appliances are not so very different, at least in principle, with heated air blown through a tumbler. But where does the air go once it has stolen moisture from your socks, shirts, and hand towels? If you’ve ever walked or driven past a modern-day Laundromat, then you already know: For a dryer to operate safely and effectively, it must vent to the outside.

Related: 15 Laundry Rooms We Love

In recent decades, it’s been common practice for homeowners to use flexible vinyl or metal tubing in dryer vent installation. The ridged design of these ducts, however, tends to pose a fire hazard: In short, they trap lint. For that reason, experts now instead recommend the use of rigid or semirigid hose; either can be found easily and purchased inexpensively in the diameter appropriate for your appliance (for most dryers, the correct duct size is four inches).

STEP 1
Dryer vent installation begins with a decision: By what route will the duct travel from your appliance to your home’s exterior? The shorter, the better. A straight path is the shortest possible route, but not always practical. If, say, your dryer sits in the basement, then the hose needs to make at least one turn. To complicate matters, the total length of the run should not exceed 25 feet—and that’s for a straight shot. From that maximum, deduct five feet for 90-degree bends, and two and a half feet for 45-degree ones.

STEP 2
Now comes the most challenging part of dryer vent installation: putting a hole in the exterior wall. In most cases, the opening must be four and a quarter inches wide (for confirmation, consult the instructions provided by the manufacturer). I suggest drilling a pilot hole first, then going outside to double-check its position. If there’s no impediment, and you’re boring through wood, proceed to use the drill/driver, first outfitting the tool with a hole-saw attachment. To penetrate stucco or concrete, it’s easier to use a masonry bit to drill multiple holes around the circumference of the desired opening before manually chiseling out its interior.

Dryer Vent Installation - Exterior View

Photo: shutterstock.com

STEP 3
Install the dryer vent cap against the side of your house, being sure that its attached pipe fits through the wall opening you have made. Secure the cap with the provided screws, and don’t forget to caulk around the edges for protection against the elements. Now go inside and connect the dryer duct to the vent cap pipe (a 90-degree elbow may be needed), securing the connection with a hose clamp.

STEP 4
Having moved the dryer into the desired spot in your laundry room, measure the distance from the back of the machine to the vent opening, accounting for all the necessary turns in the ductwork. With a pair of tin snips, proceed to cut the tubing to the length of the measured distance. If you are joining more than one length of tubing, reinforce all joints with foil tape. When you’re finally attaching the tubing to your dryer, remember to secure the connection by means of a hose clamp, as you did in Step 3.

STEP 5
At this point, it’s important to make certain your dryer vent installation has been successful. Switch on the dryer, then go outside to inspect the vent cap: It should be emitting warm air. If it’s not, head back indoors to review your ductwork. The most likely explanation is that one of the connections has come undone.

Remember that in order for your dryer to keep operating at maximum efficiency, you must periodically vacuum inside the vent system, as lint has a stubborn way of lingering, even when there are no ridges in which it can get lodged.


Breathe Deep: 5 Ways to Improve Your Home’s Air Quality for Better Health

Because you can't see it, you might not give a lot of thought to the air you breathe at home. But clean air is an important component of a healthy, nurturing environment, so follow these five tips to get your indoor air quality as good as it can be.

Improving Air Quality

Photo: shutterstock.com

Deep breathing has been shown to reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and even improve digestion. But if the air you’re breathing in isn’t as clean as it should be, taking those breaths might actually be causing more harm than good.

You can improve the air quality in your home most simply by cleaning with natural, odor-free products; having people remove their shoes before entering to avoid dragging in dust and dirt; and opening windows when the weather permits to keep fresh air circulating throughout the home.

Beyond those simple steps, here are five other ways to clean up the air in your home and make sure it’s fresh, invigorating, and free of harmful allergens.

CONSIDER RADIANT FLOOR HEATING
Radiant heating is installed beneath the floors (and sometimes behind the walls) of your home and consists of panels that contain either warming electric or water-carrying pipes. Because this kind of system doesn’t rely on ducts to deliver warm air to the home, it dramatically reduces the number of airborne particles that can cause allergies, discomfort, and sometimes even colds and flu. For homeowners with asthma or other respiratory conditions, the benefits can be even greater. Unlike forced hot air systems that can dry the air and blow around allergens, and baseboard and radiator systems that can harbor dust in hard-to-clean areas, radiant heating, such as the high-efficiency systems offered by Warmboard, is as clean as you keep your floors.

Warmboard radiant heat

Photo: Warmboard.com

 

GET THE HUMIDITY RIGHT
The humidity in homes should be kept in the 30 to 50 percent range. Maintaining this target humidity level is especially important in the winter if you have a forced hot air system, which tends to dry the air dramatically, and in the summer if you live in a humid climate. Depending on where you live, you might need a humidifier to replace moisture in the air or a dehumidifier to dry things up. Dry air is a contributing factor to common colds, while air that is too moist can become a breeding ground for bacteria, so getting this component of your indoor air quality right can be critical for your family’s health. One simple way to determine if the air in your home is too dry is to notice whether or not you get frequent electric shocks in the cold weather. If you do, it’s too dry. Air that’s too moist, on the other hand, can be detected by a damp or mildewy smell in the home.

 

GO GREEN
Going green when it comes to home air quality usually refers to switching to natural, scent-free products—and, of course, this is a fine idea. What we’re referring to here, however, is going green by filling your home with greenery. Plants can be a great way to not only freshen the air, but also warm and personalize your home. Studies by NASA have shown that certain houseplants are good at eliminating harmful substances in the air. Aloe vera, for example, is effective at clearing formaldehyde, which can be found in some plywoods, carpeting, and furniture as well as in certain cleaning products, while the bamboo palm is good at eliminating benzene, which is used in the manufacturing of plastics.

 

HELP YOURSELF TO A HEPA
High-efficiency particulate absorption, or HEPA, filters are well known as effective ways to clear harmful particles out of the air. You can benefit from the power of these fine-mesh filters in several ways. If you have a forced-air furnace system, contact your local HVAC contractor to see about installing a whole-house HEPA system that will help clean the air that comes out of your heating vents. Do likewise for central air conditioning systems. You should also look for a vacuum that has a HEPA filter, because it prevents the dust sucked up by the vacuum from escaping back into the air through the exhaust. Finally, an air filter placed in the rooms you use the most, like the bedroom or living room, can keep the air fresh and allergen-free.

 

DO A FABRIC AUDIT
Drapes, carpeting, and excessive pillows and fabrics can all harbor dust mites and other allergy-causing particles, so take a good look around your home and consider a redecorating plan that will eliminate these items. Choose tile or hardwood floors over rugs, blinds over drapes, and consider leather or wood rather than fabric-upholstered furniture. Also consider eliminating nonwashable items like decorative pillows, plush toys, and bedspreads and comforters that can’t be washed. Feather bed pillows are often a source of irritation for those suffering from allergies, so such pillows might have to go as well. The less cluttered and fabric-intensive your home is, the better chance you’ll have at keeping it clean, fresh, and dust-free.

 

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


Baseboard Heating 101

Requiring no ductwork, baseboard heating can be an easy-to-install and affordable solution for many homeowners. Is it right for you? Find out more here.

Baseboard Heat - Cover

Photo: baseboardheatercovers.com

Baseboard heat can be an effective and affordable solution, either for the whole house or as a supplement in rooms underserved by the main heating system.

BASEBOARD HEAT VS. FORCED AIR
Baseboard heat offers several advantages over the average forced-air system. For one thing, baseboards operate almost silently, in contrast to the noisy blowers of forced-air heating. Another advantage of baseboard heat is that it requires no ductwork. That means two things: One, it’s relatively easy to install, particularly in older homes, where adding ducts can be so problematic. Two, whereas forced-air heating ducts should be serviced regularly, there’s little ongoing maintenance to do with baseboard heat. Last but not least is a matter of preference: Many homeowners like how baseboard heat comes out evenly, not in intermittent blasts.

ELECTRIC
Technically speaking, electricity plays a role in all baseboard heating systems, but there are some that run exclusively on electricity. You can put these in every room of the house if you want, but it’s far more customary for an electric baseboard to provide supplemental heat for individual rooms on an as-needed basis. One common usage is for baseboard heat to run in a bedroom overnight, while the whole-house heating system can be put on a budget-friendly low setting.

Did you ever wonder why baseboard units typically appear beneath windows? In a word, the answer is: science. Baseboard heat works through convection. As cold air falls from the window, it enters the baseboard unit through a vent. Within the baseboard, the air is warmed by a series of metal fins that have been heated through electricity. The warm air then rises from the baseboard, and the pattern repeats itself, creating a circular flow known as a convection current.

Plug-in portable baseboard heaters exist, but the best baseboards are hardwired into the circuity of a home (with 120-volt or 240-volt supplies, either of which calls for the installation services of an electrician). Some electric baseboard heating units feature an integrated thermostat; others are set by an in-wall controller.

Though inexpensive to purchase, electric baseboards are somewhat infamously inefficient, meaning they can be costly to run for any prolonged period of time. It’s for this reason more than any other that homeowners typically choose not to rely on electric baseboard heating units as full-time solutions for the whole house.

Baseboard Heat - Hydronic

Photo: howtobuildahouseblog.com

HYDRONIC
In a hydronic baseboard unit, the mechanics are similar but slightly different. Electricity still generates the system’s heat, but it does so indirectly. First, the electrical current warms up an enclosed fluid, either oil or water, and then that fluid radiates heat into the room where the unit has been installed.

Hydronic baseboard heating systems operate more efficiently than do electric units, because once the fluid has been warmed, it takes longer to cool down (the metal fins in an electrical baseboard, by comparison, cool down very quickly). That’s why if you come across a home in which baseboard heat is the one and only system of delivering heat, chances are high that it’s a cheaper-to-run hydronic system.

What are the cons? In a whole-house hydronic system reliant on water circulated from the water heater, the lines can be disturbed by an intrusion of air. Fortunately, there’s an easy fix: bleeding the pipes. Another drawback is that compared with electric baseboards, hydronic units take longer to heat up. For many homeowners, however, the efficiency of hydronic baseboards amply makes up for their slow start.

The bottom line is if you only need to heat your house for a fraction of the calendar year, or if on occasion you want to make one or two rooms more comfortable, electric or hydronic baseboard heat may be the solution you’ve been seeking.


Electricians: 5 Reasons Why Home Depot Deserves Another Look

The Home Depot not only provides homeowners a cheap and efficient way to get the supplies they need, they work with professional contractors as well to help them save money, get the goods they need and save valuable time.

Electrical Supply - The Home Depot

Photo: Shutterstock

Ever since the first two stores opened in Atlanta, Georgia in 1979, The Home Depot has been a storehouse for the supplies do-it-yourselfers need to undertake home improvement projects—from changing a light bulb to constructing an addition.

But The Home Depot has also helped revolutionize the way in which professional contractors—especially electricians—conduct their business. If you’re a licensed electrician who gets supplies from somewhere other than The Home Depot, here are five reasons why you might want to reconsider:

Convenience

With over 2,200 locations across the United States, chances are good that there’s going to be a Home Depot fairly close to most any job site. This means if you run into a surprise on the job or run out of a supply you thought you had on the truck, help is a short drive away. Another convenient aspect of shopping for electrical supplies at Home Depot is the store’s hours. According to Dan Taylor, a licensed electrician in Asheville, North Carolina: “Home Depot is open at times when the other electrical supply places are closed. They stay open until nine at night, whereas most electrical supply places close at five. They are also open on Saturday and Sunday when other stores are closed.”

Price

According to Taylor, “Large retailers like Home Depot have the ability to buy in bulk. They can purchase wire like Romex by the tractor loads and pass the savings on to the customer.” Not only are Home Depot’s normal prices on electrical supplies typically cheaper than other stores, but they also offer two additional ways to save. Many items in the electrical department have bulk pricing options which are clearly marked on the store shelves and on the company’s website. So for often-used items like junctions boxes and switches, buying in bulk can save significant cash. Also, the company offers electrical contractors special volume pricing on orders exceeding $2500. The savings gleaned from shopping at Home Depot can be passed onto customers to make your business highly competitive, or applied to your own bottom line to boost your profitability.

Selection

With the average Home Depot store spreading across 104,000 square feet of space, there’s plenty of room to keep a lot in stock. Electricians can find everything from lighting fixtures and smoke detectors to armored cable, outdoor electrical wire and conduit. And if something’s not in stock, by working with Home Depot’s Pro Desk, electricians can special order anything they need and even have it delivered straight to a job site, saving valuable time.

Pro App

One of the biggest advantages for electrical contractors shopping at Home Depot is their unique Pro App. “With the mobile app on my phone, I can look and see if an electrical item is in stock and where it’s located in the store,” says Taylor. “It also gives me the option to go pick up the item and know that I’m going to get the right part.” In addition to helping streamline the supply process, the Pro App also allows for online receipts, which can be easily forwarded to customers, and it provides easy access to Home Depot’s Pro Desk which specializes in helping contractors run their business in the most efficient way possible.

 

Commercial Credit

Home Depot offers electrical contractors two handy credit options. The Commercial Credit Account requires payment in full each month, but allows you to issue cards to your employees, track expenditures online and set up PO numbers. The Commercial Revolving Charge Account allows you to carry a balance and make low payments each month (or you can pay in full), plus it provides itemized billing by job name. Both accounts have no annual fee, so they provide extra flexibility in running your business at no extra cost.

For more, check out The Home Depot Pro advantage.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of The Home Depot. The opinions and text are all mine.

 


How To: Texture Walls

Raise visual interest in your home by raising the texture of your walls. It’s a fun DIY project that allows your creativity to really come through.

How to Texture Walls

Photo: shutterstock.com

When you texture the walls of your house, you accomplish two things. First, you transform boring-to-look-at surfaces into pitted, peaked, and otherwise visually appealing objects of interest. Second, you are able to hide any imperfections that may exist on the wall, which saves the trouble of making a dozen little repairs.

Related: 5 DIY Wood Wall Treatment Ideas

There is an almost endless number of techniques for texturing walls—the process is as much an art form as it is a popular home improvement job. To learn more about several of the most common approaches, we contacted texture and design specialist Larry Oliver, owner of Westchester, New York-based Lawrence Oliver Painting.

Drywall Mud
An easy way to texture walls is by simulating a stucco finish. According to Oliver, this virtually fail-safe method often yields satisfying results for average do-it-yourselfers. “Apply taping or joint compound to your wall with a trowel or a wide compound knife,” he explains. “Next, dab a sponge into the compound, then press the sponge against the wall repeatedly to create an overall texture. Dab on additional compound as necessary. Let dry and then paint.”

Joint taping compound, also known as drywall mud, can be purchased at any home improvement store. When using compound to texture walls, first make sure the walls are clean and completely dry. Water down the compound slightly prior to application so that it has the consistency of thick pancake batter. One thing homeowners like about working with compound is that if you apply too much or incorrectly position it, you can simply wipe away the mistake and begin again.

Another way to use joint compound to texture walls is to apply it by means of a notched trowel (the kind used to skim-coat a plaster wall) or a squeegee into which you’ve cut a series of indentations. Use either tool to make a line pattern across the breadth of the wall surface. Work in one direction first, then go in the perpendicular direction, spreading the mud in such a way as to form a crosshatched pattern, one that looks the way some woven fabrics do when seen up close.

To achieve the popular “skip trowel” wall texture, a knife is angled during compound application to create a pleasingly uneven surface. Don’t be fooled: You need a steady hand to pull this off. That’s why Oliver suggests a different approach for DIYers: the knockdown method. “Use taping compound and a sea-sponge roller. Roll the compound onto your wall with about 80 percent coverage. Before the compound dries, lightly smooth the higher areas with a knife.”

In the stomp-knockdown technique, a variation of the above, a special brush is smacked repeatedly against a compound-covered wall. Some of the mud pulls away from the wall with each strike. Before the compound starts to dry, the installer follows up with a knife or paint scraper in order to eliminate unwanted peaks.

Oliver says that if you’ve chosen to apply taping compound with either the knockdown or stomp-knockdown method, it’s important that you wield the putty knife at the correct angle (approximately 15 degrees) and not exert too much pressure. “The slight angle and light pressure ensure that you do not smooth out your finish too much.” Oliver then cautions, “Always remember not to be heavy-handed in the corners and edges—that’s a common mistake made among DIYers.”

Other tools that may be employed to apply joint compound include tissue paper, old rags, and specially designed deep-nap rollers. In addition, you can also try rolling on the compound with a standard paint roller before artfully removing some of the material you have added. Because compound has a forgiving nature, feel free to experiment with whichever technique you find the most promising. In all cases, let the compound dry thoroughly before you proceed to paint. Depending on local humidity, drying may take as long as 24 hours. To speed the process, aim a fan toward the wall surface on which you have been working.

How to Texture Walls - Blue

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Paint
Many of the major paint manufacturers offer a line of textured paints. Such products work similarly to drywall mud, but because they are comparatively more difficult to remove, they require greater precision.

For example, when using textured paint, you must work quickly to cover the entire surface before the coat dries. If one area dries before you’ve covered the next, rigid lines may appear at their intersection.

Related: How To: Paint EVERYTHING 

That said, textured paint goes on simply with a standard paint roller and a brush to cut in at edges and corners. Two coats are typically needed, one for the base and another as the finishing layer.

Because textured paints are available in only a limited range of hues, you may wish to pursue a different option—namely, a paint texture additive, which can be mixed with any color of regular paint you like.

Machines
If you wish to texture a very large wall or the walls in several rooms, consider renting a drywall texture sprayer. Powered by compressed air and featuring a gun-like nozzle, a sprayer speedily covers surfaces in joint compound, producing, among a variety of other looks, the currently passé “popcorn” texture.

The pattern a sprayer creates depends on three variables: the type of compound used, the nozzle selected, and the amount of air that is propelling the mud. There’s no harm in experimenting, as the compound can be easily sponged off if you end up with a texture that is not to your liking.

Be advised that if you decide to employ a sprayer in a home decked out with furnishings and finished floors, it’s essential to cover anything that you don’t want hit by mud.

No matter the technique you opt to use, Oliver offers one final recommendation: “When texturing walls, try not to be too repetitive, making the same shape over and over like chicken tracks,” he says. “To create a more professional finish, keep the textured pattern random.” This should come as a relief to many DIYers, because intricate patterning is harder to accomplish than random texturing. So give it a shot, and have fun!


How To: Mount a Flat-Panel TV

When you're hanging a slim but heavy electronic device worth hundreds of dollars, it pays to do the job right. Here's how.

Mounting a Flat Screen TV

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Even if you have minimal experience in home improvement matters, you are probably thinking, “Hey, come on, of course I can hang something on the wall.” But when that something is a heavy, glass-laden electronic device worth several hundred dollars, a seemingly simple task becomes slightly more complicated, if not downright challenging. But fret not: If you follow these steps carefully, you should have no problem mounting a flat-screen TV in your bedroom, den, or man cave.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Stud finder (or measuring tape)
- Level
- Drill/driver
- Pencil
- Universal mounting hardware
- Wire molding (or in-wall power extension)

STEP 1
To choose appropriate mounting hardware, you must first determine the weight of your flat-screen (check the manual, or if you have the TV model number, look online). The manufacturer may sell a mount to be used specifically with your set. If it doesn’t, then purchase a “universal” mount rated for the weight of your TV.

STEP 2
TVs lighter than 80 pounds may be hung from a single wall stud; larger units need two studs or more. So first, break out your stud finder and use it to locate the studs on the wall to which you’re going to mount your flat-screen. Don’t have a stud finder? Try this: Remove the cover from an electrical outlet, then use a pencil to feel around for studs. Because junction boxes are usually attached to a stud, you should encounter one. Measure 16 inches to the right or left to pinpoint additional studs.

Mounting a Flat Screen TV - Attic

Photo: bfeininteriordesign.com

STEP 3
Place the mounting bracket onto the wall at the desired height, relying on a level to help you achieve the proper alignment. Now, with a pencil, mark the places where the screws or bolts are going to go. Set aside the bracket while you predrill holes in each spot where you made a pencil mark. The drill bit used should be slightly narrower than the screws or bolts included with your mounting kit.

Note that drywall anchors are not to be used in mounting a flat-screen TV. If you wish to mount the TV on drywall, but no stud exists in the ideal position for the screen, then I think toggle bolts are your best bet. 

STEP 4
Proceed to attach the bracket to the wall with the hardware that came with your kit. (If your chosen mount involves lag screws, you’ll need a socket wrench.) Next, carefully place your TV face down on a soft surface so that you can attach the half of the bracket that fastens to the flat-screen.

STEP 5
It’s one thing to be successful in mounting a flat-screen TV, but it’s another thing entirely to conceal the cords. The easiest method is to run a wire molding down from the television. The cords hide in a neat column behind the molding, and if you paint the molding the same color as the wall, it’s not very noticeable at all.

A cleaner option is to thread the cords behind the wall, but technically it’s illegal to do so. Fortunately, there’s a compromise—it’s an in-wall power extension (IWPE) or a power bridge kit. These enable the homeowner to install an outlet in the wall, more or less behind the TV screen, so it’s all but invisible to occupants in the room. Behind the wall, a power bridge cable travels from the newly installed outlet to another new receptacle installed lower down on the wall. Then you just run a power cord from an existing outlet or surge protector to the inconspicuously placed bottom receptacle. Now your cords are concealed—legally.

STEP 6
Congratulations on making it this far. Now comes the easy part, actually hanging the TV. The bracket you’ve attached to the TV itself simply slides over the bracket secured to the wall. That’s all there is to it. Connect your cables, then sit back and relax with your favorite show. After all that hard work, you deserve a little time on the couch!


Planning Guide: Insulation

Although it remains out of sight in our homes, insulation is our greatest ally in the struggle to save energy and keep our spaces toasty warm in the winter and cool in the summer.

How to Install Insulation - Fiberglass Batt

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Insulation is the strong, silent type. Although it operates behind the scenes for the most part, it plays a vital role: keeping us comfortable indoors. Unlike fuel or electricity, insulation doesn’t cost anything from month to month, but it works to maintain a warm temperature in winter, a cool temperature in summer.

Despite the big difference insulation can make, many homeowners ignore its advantages. In one study, the Harvard School of Public Health found that 65 percent of homes in the United States contain substandard insulation. If in every one of those instances the insulation were brought up to the standards set by the International Energy Conservation Code, we would save 800 trillion BTUs annually—an amount of energy equal to 75,000 supertankers’ worth of crude oil!

So if you’re building a new home or seeking to improve the energy efficiency of an existing dwelling, don’t be mistaken—at home, what you can’t see can help you.

How to Install Insulation - Types

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TYPES
There are several different types of insulation, each with its own set of attributes and ideal applications. If for any reason a single solution is judged to be unsuitable for your home, then for optimal results it’s not only possible but recommended that you install a combination of insulation types.

Most common of all is blanket-style insulation, made from either fiberglass or rock wool. The material comes in rolls or square batts (with or without a foil or paper backer). For the convenience of contractors and do-it-yourselfers alike, blanket insulation comes presized to fit between most studs, rafters, and joists.

Meanwhile, loose insulation works best in parts of the house where there are irregular surfaces, or where major system components like the furnace are present. This type of insulation consists of either fiberglass or rock wool that blows into place by means of special equipment. Professional installation is advised.

For home exteriors, basements, and crawl spaces, opt for rigid insulation, whether foam- or fiber-based. A relatively new addition to the home-building and remodeling market, rigid insulation has quickly become a favorite, because it packs a lot of insulating power, measured as R-value, into a thin profile.

Closed- or open-cell spray foam insulation is resistant to mold, unlike other insulation types, and closed-cell foam in particular boasts an outstandingly high R-value. In contrast, open-cell foam insulates less well but offers superior breathability. Either type is expensive, in part because foam must be installed by pros.

SELECTION
The higher the R-value of an insulation product, the greater its resistance to heat flow—and the higher its cost. So what R-value does your insulation need to have? That depends on where you live. Energy Star provides an easy-to-read chart that lists the recommended R-value for different parts of the country.

R-values are cumulative, meaning that if you place R14 insulation over an initial layer with an R-value of 30, the insulation ends up being R45. Never compress insulation; doing so dramatically undermines it. Therefore, be wary if installing a denser material—say, rigid foam—over a lighter one, such as a fiberglass batt.

Insulation products are clearly marked. Pay attention to that labeling so that you can be sure to spend no more than is strictly necessary. Hiring a contractor? Ask to see the label on each roll, batt, bag, or panel of insulation going into the job. That way, you can be certain you’re getting the R-value for which you’re paying.

How to Install Insulation - Rafters

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NEW CONSTRUCTION
Home builders are in the habit of using only a base level of insulation. For that reason, it’s important to discuss your insulation requirements with the person in charge of the project. To avoid unnecessary delays, speak up early in the construction timeline, before the walls and siding have been fastened into place.

Any floor, wall, or ceiling can be insulated, including those in unfinished basements or garages. The catch is that if your basement floods or your garage gets drafty, insulation might be a waste of money. Ideally, you should fix water and air leaks before you proceed to install insulation in a space affected by either issue.

One key advantage in new construction is that builders have the opportunity to counteract a phenomenon known as thermal bridging, in which floor joists become a source of heat loss, causing a drop of up to 50 percent in insulation R-value. For best results, insulation must run above joists, not just between them.

How to Install Insulation - Paneling

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RETROFITTING
Estimates say that only 20 percent of homes predating 1980 are properly insulated, so if you live in an older home, chances are that installing insulation would dramatically lower your heating and cooling bills.

If you’re interested, start with an energy audit (sometimes these are provided free of charge by the local utility company). Among other things, an energy audit reveals which parts of the house are subject to heat loss. Of course, those areas are the prime candidates for additional insulation.

You can assess your insulation needs without consulting an energy auditor. The labor-intensive process involves such things as peeking into the attic and crawl space and, where possible, behind walls or beneath flooring. If you want to know whether there’s insulation on the other side of a wall panel, one trick is to remove the faceplate from an electrical outlet on that wall. You should be able to see in.

How do you determine the R-value of any insulation that you find in your home? If it’s pink, white, or yellow, it’s likely fiberglass, which has an R-value equal to 2.5 times its thickness. If the insulation is gray or off-white, then it’s probably rock wool, in which case the R-value is 2.8 times the thickness. Loose cellulose insulation is typically gray, with an R-value that is 3.7 times its depth.

In an existing home, it’s usually pretty easy to add insulation in areas like the attic, basement, or crawl space. Walls, on the other hand, can be very tricky—or, in other words, expensive. Here, the least invasive, most cost-effective solution is to rely on blown-in or spray insulation.

TIPS AND PRECAUTIONS
• To cut blanket-style insulation, place the product over a piece of plywood, paper/foil side down. Lay a two-by-four on top, temporarily compressing the insulation to a manageable thickness. Then run a standard utility knife along the edge of the lumber, through the insulation and down to the plywood.

• Insulation expands once unpackaged, so leave it wrapped until you are ready to use it.

• Many insulation products release hazardous particles. If you choose to install insulation yourself, wear full protective gear and a dust respirator.

• Do not install insulation directly adjacent to any element of the home that gets hot, such as recessed lighting. It’s a fire hazard.

• If you’re insulating your attic, take care not to cover the vents, as they are essential for maintaining adequate airflow in the home.