Author Archives: Michael Franco

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When in Doubt, Revive Your Grout!

If your floor, backsplash, or tub surround is looking a little tired and outdated, the solution may be as simple as cleaning, reviving, or replacing the grout.

cleaning - replacing grout

Photo: lovingmyfloors.com

Tile has always been a popular choice for floors, walls, and other surfaces due to its durability and long life. In fact, it’s typically the grout that starts to fail or show its age before the tile itself, and when grout gets dirty or worn, the entire tile surface can appear old or tired-looking. The best way to breathe new life back into your tile is to restore your grout, and there are some very affordable ways to do so. Replacing tile can cost thousands of dollars, whereas the options we are going to discuss could run you less than a hundred!

Cleaning – In some cases, the grout might just be stained or dirty, particularly if you are dealing with a floor that gets a lot of traffic. There are plenty of grout and tile cleaners on the market, but hydrogen peroxide and baking soda may work just as well. Pour a little hydrogen peroxide onto the grout lines and use a grout brush to work it in for a few seconds. Then pour baking soda on top and brush your little heart out. Clean up with water after you have covered the entire area, and your tile and grout will look fresh and new.

Coloring – If the color of your grout is simply outdated or faded, you may want to use a grout colorant to make it look new again. Grout colorants are applied directly to your existing grout; the process is not difficult, but it is a little tedious and time-consuming. Keep in mind that this will work only if your grout is porous (like most grout) and your tile is nonporous. Sometimes colored silicone caulk is used where tile meets other materials such as hardwood or tubs; grout colorant will not work on these areas. Also, when choosing a grout color, stay away from white or light colors because they will inevitably get dirty and stained. If you choose a darker color, then you won’t have to worry so much about the grout getting stained from foot traffic.

Replacing – If your grout is chipping, cracking, or coming loose, you can actually get rid of it and replace it with fresh, new grout. This may seem like a daunting task at first, but the old adage “the right tool for the right job” certainly applies here. The HYDE Regrout Tool makes removing grout unbelievably easy. It removes both sanded and unsanded grout at a rate of about 1 inch per second, and works with grout lines up to 1/8 inch wide. If you have ever tried to use other grout removal tools, you know that they are frustrating and dangerous, and they can actually damage your tile. The HYDE Regrout Tool eliminates these problems—it’s very easy to use and surprisingly affordable as well. The carbide tips are able to get into tight, awkward places, and they are even safe to the touch when the tool is running. Again, once the grout is removed, consider replacing it with darker colors that will not show dirt.

Sealing – After you have cleaned, colored, or replaced your grout, be sure to use a grout sealant to protect it and make it easier to clean in the future. Grout sealants help keep your grout from getting stained, and they protect it from moisture and mildew. It is well worth the small investment of time and money to protect your hard work and your refreshed tile surface! So before you start tearing out your tile, look into giving your grout a facelift. There’s a good chance that fixing up the grout using these helpful tips will give you the same results as replacing your tile, for a fraction of the cost!

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

 


Warming Trend: 5 Smart Ways to Heat Your Home

Heating your home has never been cheap, but new technologies can help cut the costs substantially.

Photo: Shutterstock

When considering the best way to bring warmth into your house, think of the four “E’s”: energy, efficiency, economics, and environment. You’ll want to choose a type of energy source that’s not only available in your area, but also fits with your ethos and needs. You’ll want to make sure your chosen heating system is efficient and suits your economic situation. And you’ll want to choose a system that creates a pleasant internal environment for you and your family. Here are a few ways to balance these four “E’s” when you’re choosing the best method for heating your home.

programmable thermostat

Photo: energystar.gov

Programmable Thermostats: A simple and affordable way to make your existing heating system smarter is to replace the old thermostat with a programmable one. This will enable you to create different heating schedules for different times of the day or different days of the week. For example, if no one is home during the day, it doesn’t make sense to keep the house as toasty as you like it in the evening when the house is occupied. Once you establish your desired settings, a programmable thermostat will automatically adjust the temperature without requiring you to remember to turn it up or down.Keep in mind, however, that extreme fluctuations in your thermostat settings can cause your furnace to work harder and can actually decrease efficiency, so be sure to keep the settings within a reasonable range.

Zoned Heating: The ability to heat different areas of your home to different temperatures is called zoned heating. You can set up different zones in a number of ways, depending on what type of system you have. Typically, multiple thermostats are used to adjust individual temperature settings for each room. This enables you to turn down thermostats in areas of your home that aren’t frequently used, which saves energy and money. Zoned heating can also remedy the problem of hot and cold spots in your home. For example, if the second floor of your home is always 10 degrees warmer than the first floor, or if the room above the garage is always 10 degrees cooler, then zoned heating is a smart solution.

Hybrid Furnace: If you live in a climate where temperatures occasionally get below 30 degrees Fahrenheit, then a hybrid, or dual-fuel, system will most likely save you money. A hybrid furnace is like a hybrid vehicle in principle—it uses electricity as its primary source of power but then kicks in another fuel source when higher demands are placed on the system. The primary source of heat for a hybrid furnace is an electric heat pump, which is more energy efficient than natural gas, propane, or oil. Heat pumps, however, don’t perform as well when temperatures drop below 30 or 40 degrees Fahrenheit. At such temperatures, a hybrid furnace will automatically switch from the heat pump to another fuel source to balance efficiency and effectiveness.

Radiant Floor Heating: There are different types of radiant floor systems, but they all work by heating your floors from underneath, creating a home environment that is heated evenly and quietly without drying forced air or clanging baseboards. In general, radiant floor systems are more efficient than traditional setups, but not all systems are created equal. Many radiant floor systems can tie into your existing furnace, but if you don’t have an efficient furnace, you’ll lose some of the eco-friendly benefits of radiant heating. The level of conductivity in the radiant panels themselves is also an important factor in radiant heat performance.

The new Total Warmth System from Warmboard solves both of these issues by providing a complete package that includes a heater, superefficient floor panels with superior conductivity, and wireless thermostats for each room that allow you to take advantage of zoned heating by adjusting the temperature just how you like it, where you like it. The Total Warmth System also wins points because it was designed with ease of installation, affordability, and energy efficiency in mind.

Solar: Although the upfront investment can be fairly high, solar heat is certainly a smart choice because it is a clean renewable resource. The problem is that there are a lot of variables that come into play, so it isn’t ideal for all situations. Depending on your particular application, you will need to consider a number of factors, such as the amount of unobstructed sun that hits your home, how much space you have available for the solar thermal collectors, whether or not you’ll want to heat your water, the type of backup system you’ll need, the type of collectors you’ll need, storage tank size, and whether you’re going with passive or active solar heating. The bottom line is that solar power is very smart, but there’s no straightforward, one-size-fits-all, out-of-the-box application. It takes lot of research and know-how, and a generous budget to really do it right.

 

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

 


How To: Make a Picture Frame

Whether you want something unique and creative or just need to use up some scrap wood, making your own picture frame can be easy and rewarding.

picture frames

icing-sugar.net

What is art? Critics and philosophers are free to debate the question endlessly, but we think it’s pretty simple: If there’s a frame around it, then it’s art! Less simple—but not so complex that you shouldn’t give it a try—is building your own picture frame. Beginning woodworkers love this project, and for many others it can be a great money-saver. Within only a weekend, provided you have access to a few basic tools, you can make a picture frame to keep for the rest of your life.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS:
- Table saw
- Miter saw
- Router (optional)
- Wood
- Measuring tape
- Wood glue
- Hammer and brad nails
- Sandpaper
- Paint, stain, or linseed oil

The following steps apply in a general way no matter what type of wood you want to use (or happen to have on hand), or what size you would like the picture frame to be. But for the sake of simplicity in this tutorial, we’ll assume that you intend to build an 11″ x 14″ picture frame from a 1″ x 4″ maple board that measures 4 feet long.

STEP 1
Setting the table saw at 1-1/2″ (from the blade to the fence), rip the wood board into two 4-foot-long pieces. These must be exactly the same width, so pass the wider of the two through the table saw a second time. (Of course, if you’d wanted the frame wider or narrower, you would have set the table saw accordingly.)

STEP 2
With a router, cut a 1/2″ x 1/2″ rabbet—that is, a rectilinear groove—along one of the long sides of each of the two pieces. The picture is going to lie against the rabbet, so if you expect to frame an item (or to use a mat) of considerable thickness, accommodate it by creating a more generous rabbet.

STEP 3
Use a miter saw to cut one end of both boards at a 45-degree angle, being careful to make sure that the rabbet runs along what is to become the inside of the frame. In other words, once you have finished cutting an angle into each board, the rabbeted edges should be opposite the longer (and pointier) side.

STEP 4
Measure the longer side of the picture you are going to frame; add 1/16″ to that measurement. Then choose one of the two boards and transfer that total measurement to its rabbeted side, marking the distance. Here, cut a 45-degree angle, this time in the direction opposite to the initial angled cut. Next, place the second board over the one into which you’ve just now cut a second angle. Mark the second board, then cut it so that you have a pair of identical pieces. On the two leftover pieces, repeat the process of measuring, marking, and cutting, this time using as a guide the shorter side of the picture to be framed. Make sure you’re keeping the rabbeted side to the inside of the frame.

STEP 5
Assemble the four pieces into a rectangular shape, remembering always to position the rabbet groove to the inside. Dab wood glue onto each joint, then fasten the pieces together by means of brad nails. Two nails close to each outside corner ought to do the trick. Wipe away any excess glue immediately. Let dry overnight.

STEP 6
Sand the picture frame, then wipe away any sawdust with a damp cloth. Once you have allowed enough time for the wood to dry completely, it’s safe to apply your choice of finish. (If you’re building with attractive lumber, I recommend finishing with linseed oil.) Having finished the piece, flip it over so the back (rabbeted) side is facing up. Fit a piece of cut-to-size glass into the frame, then lay the picture face down on the glass and place a backing over it. You have several options for securing everything in place, including glazing points or brads.

Congratulations, you’ve created a masterpiece: You might even decide to leave the picture out entirely, because the frame itself is such a work of art!


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

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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

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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.