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How To: Sand Drywall

Choose from two foolproof techniques to sand out any glaring drywall imperfections—lumps, ridges, and the like—so that you (and your walls) can enjoy a flawless finish.

How to Sand Drywall - Sand Drywall Before Painting

Photo: fotosearch.com

Drywall—commonly known as sheet rock—is one of the most popular construction materials used in finishing interior walls. Cheap, durable, easy to install, easily repaired—it’s no wonder that it’s a go-to for do-it-yourselfers and contractors alike. But while drywall installation is admittedly an easy DIY project, a few tips and techniques borrowed from the pros can make the difference between a smooth, attractive wall surface and one riddled with imperfections.

At the top of the list of important know-how is proper sanding technique. Without it, any dings, dents, creases, ridges, or lumps in the joint compound will be magnified once paint is applied, and uneven sections in the drywall can prevent wallpaper from adhering correctly. Here are two sanding methods designed to produce a flawless finish.

 

Option 1: Dry Sanding

Dry sanding is the typical method used to finish drywall joints, as it produces the smoothest finish—ideal if you plan on painting the drywall. But be warned: It does create an unavoidable dust storm in the middle of your home, which can sway homeowners to consider wet sanding (see further down) in cases where a smooth finish isn’t absolutely necessary.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Joint compound
- Putty knife
- Sanding block
- Sanding pole (optional)
- Sanding sponge
- Fine-grit sandpaper (120- to 150-grit)
- Flashlight or work light
- Pencil
- Wall primer
- Dust mask and goggles
- Plastic sheeting and tape
- Vacuum cleaner or shop-vac

How to Sand Drywall - Sanding Drywall

Photo: flickr.com via Georgia National Guard

STEP 1
Drywall sanding produces copious amounts of dust, but proper preparation can help keep the dust from infiltrating every nook and cranny of your home. Before you begin, assemble all tools in the room where you will be sanding, including extra joint compound and a putty knife to fill in any gouges or mistakes. Wear a dust mask and goggles to protect your face; you may want to cover your hair with a scarf and wear old clothes. If you have an exterior window, open it a crack to provide ventilation. Tape plastic sheeting across any doors leading to other areas of your home, as well as over the floor and any furniture in the room.

STEP 2
Affix a section of fine-grit sandpaper to the sanding block. You can purchase pre-cut sections that are designed to fit drywall sanders—anchor one end under the clamp and pull the sandpaper taut before tightening the clamp on the other side.

Attach the sanding block to a sanding pole, if desired, to better reach the ceiling or along the top edges of the walls. If you use one, though, be careful to keep the sanding head slightly angled—never completely perpendicular to the pole, to avoid gouging the surface.

STEP 3
Sand the joints, seams, and around screws lightly with the sanding block. A few pointers:

• Careful to not put too much pressure on the surface to avoid “fuzzing” the drywall or leaving sanding marks; sand the center of seams and joints just enough to remove ridges and bumps.

• Also avoid sanding in a straight line or going over the same area in the same direction, both of which can leave grooves or depressions. Instead, move the sander around in a curved motion.

Use a sanding sponge to get into the corners and around electrical boxes, again, applying light pressure to avoid damaging the drywall paper.

STEP 4
Shine a light parallel to the joints to reveal any gouges, grooves, or ridges. Mark these areas lightly with a pencil. Fill these areas with fresh joint compound, smoothing with a putty knife. Let dry completely, and then re-sand the area.

STEP 5
Prime the walls, then sand again lightly to remove any lumpy spots or paper fuzz.

STEP 6
Use a vacuum cleaner or shop vac to clean up the drywall dust. If your vacuum has a pre-filter, use one designed to capture drywall dust and other fine particles.

How to Sand Drywall - Drywall Sander

Photo: fotosearch.com

 

Option 2: Wet Sanding

The biggest downside to drywall sanding is that it produces dust—a lot of dust! Wet sanding drywall avoids most of this mess and the associated cleanup. The catch? It does not produce quite as smooth a finish as dry sanding, and therefore is not suitable for walls that will be painted. If the final finish is wallpaper or texturing, however, consider wet sanding to save a lot of time. Just add a bucket (and a mop for any mess) to the materials list above, and you’re good to get started.

STEP 1
Prep your space following the suggestions in Step 1 of the dry sanding process. This time, fill up a bucket about half-full with warm water and place it with the rest of your tools. Then dunk the sanding sponge in the water.

STEP 2
Squeeze all excess water out of the sanding sponge, so that it is damp but not dripping. Work your sponge’s abrasive side in a large, circular motion to sand the joints, corners, screws, and around electric boxes. (Here, too, light pressure will help avoid creating grooves or gouges.)

Note: Every few minutes, dampen the sponge in the warm water. This will also give you a chance to wash out some of the dust that collects in the sponge as you go. Once the water becomes cloudy, pour out the old water and refill with fresh warm water.

STEP 3
Look for any gouges, grooves, or ridges with the help of your flashlight, then fill these areas with fresh joint compound and (when dry) sand the area lightly with your wet sponge. Once the wall dries thoroughly, you can cover with primer, sand, and apply your wallpaper or texturing of choice.


All You Need to Know About Paper Bag Flooring

If you're willing to roll up your sleeves for an epic week-long DIY, you could bag the floor of your dreams (quite literally) for cheap. Here, find out if it's worth the work—and how to get started.

Paper Bag Flooring - How to Refinish Your Floors with Brown Paper Bags

Photo: fotosearch.com

Is your old flooring carpeted in style, or dirt, grime, and other relics of time? Modernize it by ripping out any fraying, outdated carpet pile and replacing it with humble craft paper! This fascinating flooring project has swept the blogging world off of its feet with its rich color and marble-textured results—and its cheap, cheap price tag of only $100 materials to outfit a single space and then some. But be warned: Without proper planning and execution, your paper bag floor experiment can stray far from expectation. There’s no cutting corners on this week-long, hands-on project. From floor selection to finishing touches, here’s the full scoop on how to achieve a lustrous, long-lasting paper bag floor.

Paper Bag Flooring - Finished Floor by Lovely Crafty Home

Photo: lovelycraftyhome.com

FLOOR PREPARATION

The key to flooring your guests with a paper bag finish is to start with the right subfloor. Brown craft paper adheres best to—and lasts longest on—a plywood subfloor. (Homeowners with cement or vinyl floors may want to reconsider.) While good for dressing up most areas of the home, you may be better off skipping this sort of finish in areas with excess moisture like the bathroom—at least for your first flooring project.

Before making waves in your repurposing project, practice your paper application technique. A test run can save the time (and the headache) of later discovering faulty paper adhesion, uneven staining, or foggy polyurethane. Using scrap wood, your paper bag supply, stain, and polyurethane, run through the flooring technique described in the next section.

Once you feel mentally prepared, get your floor physically prepared by removing any existing carpet, pad, and staples to get to the surface beneath. Sand out the entire subfloor to remove aberrations, hammer in any protruding nails, and fill and sand holes. (It’s a good idea to vacuum up the leftover dust from this prep work before you bring in your adhesive.)

 

PAPER APPLICATION

After the floor is prepped, tear and crumple 6- to 8-inch paper wads from a roll of brown craft paper (the material used in brown paper lunch bags). Avoid overly small pieces that can create a chintzy, pebbled appearance instead of an elegant, faux-marble look.

Pull on a pair of gloves and prepare a batch of glue mixture: three parts water to one part white school glue in a bucket. Dip a paintbrush into the glue mixture, and brush it over a small area of the floor at a time. Then grab five paper wads to work with at a time, dipping each into the glue mixture and squeezing out the excess. As when you paint a floor, start in the corner opposite and across the way from your exit to avoid papering yourself into a corner.

Flatten and adhere each paper wad to the floor, overlapping the pieces a few inches for an organic look. Use your paintbrush to smooth wrinkles. Repeat this process until the floor is covered in paper, and dry the floor overnight. The next day, you can repair any raised edges using a paintbrush and the glue mixture.

 

ADD A LITTLE COLOR

Glued-down paper bags look much like you’d imagine, like lunch bags torn and scattered across the floor. The real faux-marbling magic happens when you bring in a rich color and glossy finish. Before you unleash the fumes from your cans of stain and polyurethane, best to open any windows in the space for a little extra ventilation.

First, fill a paint tray with the oil-based stain of your choice to get to work. Tackle the edge nearest the trim and baseboard first, “cutting in” using a chip brush. To stain the rest of the floor without streaks, set aside the brush and for a lambswool floor applicator pad—one attached a mop block at the end of a universal extension pole works best for its extra reach. Dip the pad into the stain, blot out the excess, and apply the stain in large, sweeping strokes. Then let the stain dry completely at a moderate temperature for at least 48 hours.

After drying the stain, you’ll seal with several coats of a water-based, floor-grade polyurethane. Pour the product into a paint tray and affix foam floor applicator pad (better for water-based finishes) to your extension pole. Dip the foam pad into the polyurethane, blot out the excess, and apply it with similar motions. After drying, apply as many additional coats as recommended by your brand of polyurethane. For a show-room ready look, sand the surface after the first and before the last coat.

 

Paper Bag Flooring - Finished Floor by Domestic Imperfection

Photo: domesticimperfection.com

FLOOR CARE AND LONGEVITY

Your hardy paper bag floor will hold up fairly well to normal amounts of foot traffic. Adventurous DIYers like Rachael of The Lovely Crafty Home and Ashley of Domestic Imperfection both share impressive success, proving that this flooring feat lasts anywhere from a few to several years if proper application and maintenance are followed. Dirt can fade and degrade it, making regular cleaning vital.

• Vacuum or mop your floor at least once a week. homemade cleaner like a 50-50 solution of vinegar and water will banish grime.

• Safeguard the floor from dings by affixing felt feet onto the legs of all your furniture. Alternatively, experiment with laying down rugs or mats strategically to protect your  floors from scratches.

By protecting your new floor from everyday wear and tear, you can extend its lifespan and enjoy it for years to come!


How To: Get Rid of Centipedes

Centipedes may not be the most harmful household pest, but they can certainly be an unappealing nuisance. Here's how to quickly and easily evict these leggy lodgers from your home.

How to Get Rid of Centipedes - House Centipede

Photo: flickr.com via prkos

Centipedes, with no shortage of legs and alarming speed, seem to have been designed to make squeamish homeowners shriek. But despite their somewhat frightening appearance, centipedes are—for the most part—harmless, even somewhat helpful. They won’t damage your foundation, siding, or furniture; they’re not interested in the food in your pantry; and they come out at night and eat the terrible bugs that you don’t want hanging around, like termites, moths, roaches, and even bed bugs. If you’re not squeamish, you might consider just leaving centipedes alone to do what they do best—killing destructive pests with poisonous venom and then considerately gobbling them up so you have nothing left to clean. But if you find creepy-crawlies just too disturbing to live with, there are several things you can do to rid your spaces of centipedes.

How to Get Rid of Centipedes - Centipede Outdoors

Photo: fotosearch.com

STEP 1: REMOVAL

If centipedes have already made themselves comfortable in your humble abode, here are a few ways to eliminate them:

Capture: Centipedes are fast, but they don’t generally invade in large numbers. If you can trap the ones you see and either squish them or relocate them outside, you’ll be well on your way to controlling the problem. To transfer a centipede to the yard, trap one under a jar or cup, slide a piece of paper underneath the opening to keep the bug in the jar, then take it outside. Do not touch a centipede with your bare hands—they do bite. Although they are not prone to attacking humans, one might bite in self-defense; the bite would feel similar to a bee sting.

Trap: Sticky traps, such as those used for other insects and rodents, are effective at catching centipedes. Place traps next to the baseboards in the corners of your rooms to capture not only the multilegged creatures but also the bugs they’ve been feasting on—which, incidentally, could help uncover your underlying pest problem.

Spray: If the idea of using insecticides inside your home makes you less squeamish than the presence of centipedes, consider eradicating them with any number of sprays or dusts. (There are also a few nontoxic varieties available.) Before buying, check the label to ensure that the formulation targets centipedes and is safe to be used indoors. Then, apply it according to the manufacturer’s instructions around baseboards, doors, windows, and any cracks and crevices where centipedes might gain entry.

 

STEP 2: PREVENTION

The best way to reduce your home’s centipede population is to prevent the pests from entering in the first place. Here’s how to create an inhospitable home:

Outdoors: Centipedes like to hide and breed within leaf litter, grass clippings, and other damp yard materials. Clear away this outdoor debris and keep it a fair distance from your house. If you store compost or firewood, move it at least 30 feet away from your home’s perimeter.

Inside: Use an expanding foam spray to seal up any gaps, cracks, and crevices around your windows, doors, siding, pipes, and wiring. Doing this will keep out not only centipedes, but rodents as well. Centipedes love damp areas like bathrooms, basements, closets, and even attics; in fact, they’ll dry out and die without moisture. Invest in a dehumidifier, and install exhaust fans in your bathrooms or attic if you haven’t already done so.

Finally, if you can figure out which bugs the centipedes are feeding on and eradicate them, your centipedes will move on to locations where the food supply is more dependable—like, perhaps, your neighbor’s house. And then you can clue him into the combination of prevention and control that saved you from those frightening confrontations with the “hundred-legged worm.”


Bob Vila Thumbs Up: The DIY Lighting Competition Starts Today

Vote today and everyday this month to help your favorite blogger win the February Thumbs Up challenge.

Most DIYers have heard that rewiring your own home is like playing with fire—unsafe and often illegal. Wiring your own lamp, however, is a different story altogether. No matter your style or skill level, you can create custom lighting at home—and we’ve pulled together our favorite blogger projects to prove it in this month’s Bob Vila Thumbs Up competition.

SEE ALL PROJECTS HERE

Bob Vila Thumbs Up highlights some of the very best DIY bloggers, and this month we’re appreciating the ingenuity of novice lamp makers. These inventors are no electricians, but their savvy style and budget-smart decorating earns them major points in our book. Now it’s your job to vote one blogger to take the title of Bob Vila Thumbs Up champion and the winner of the prize—a $250 gift card.

SEE ALL PROJECTS HERE

So cast your vote today and every day through February 29 to help your favorite blogger become this month’s Bob Vila Thumbs Up winner. After all, only you and your vote can determine the outcome of this competition.

Congrats to last month’s winning blogger, Beyond the Picket Fence. Read more about the winning Bob Vila Thumbs Up project right here.

Would you like to recommend a blogger for the next Bob Vila Thumbs Up? Tell us about it on Facebook or Twitter!


Enter Bob Vila’s $3,500 Get Your Green On Give-Away from the Craftsman® Brand Today!

Enter for your chance to win an amazing weekly prize from the Craftsman brand.

updated Feb300x250 (1)Winter is coming to a close, which means it’s time to brush off those patio chairs, barbecue pits, and, most importantly, lawn tools. If your green machines are in less than stellar order, it might be time for an upgrade. To save you some hard-earned cash and to help get your outdoor retreats in tip-top shape, we’ve partnered with the Craftsman brand to bring you the $3,500 Get Your Green On Give-Away, which offers a must-have outdoor maintenance or storage prize each week throughout February.

ENTER HERE TO WIN

Today and every day in February (starting at 12:00 p.m. EST January 31st, 2016 through 11:59 a.m. EST on February 29th, 2016), enter to win an amazing weekly prize from the Craftsman brand to get your home and lawn ready for spring. (See Official Rules below.)

riding mower

Since 1972, the Craftsman brand has been dedicated to offering high-quality, durable tools that everyone from first-time DIYers to seasoned weekend warriors can always count on. Featuring over 80 categories and more than 6,000 products for the lawn, garden, garage, workshop, and more, there’s no job you can’t fix when armed with Craftsman tools.

Each week in February, we’re awarding one lucky winner an outdoor maintenance or storage prize from the Craftsman brand. Check back each week to enter to win one of four incredible prizes from America’s best-selling tool brand:

Throughout Week 1 (January 31st–February 8th) you could win a collection of the Craftsman brand’s newest cordless tools, including the 24V 22” Cordless Hedge Trimmer, the 24V Cordless Hard Surface Sweeper, the 24V 10” Cordless Chain Saw, and the 24V 12” Cordless Line Trimmer, to add to your yard work arsenal.

During Week 2 (February 8th–15th), enter to win a Craftsman Premium Heavy-Duty Floor Cabinet that can keep your go-to home improvement essentials safe and stored.

For Week 3 (February 15th–22nd), we’re offering up a Craftsman Pro Series Wide Deck Gas Mower—a new addition to the Craftsman Pro Series line that boasts a 28″ 2-in-1 dual-blade mowing deck and an engine qualified to 60% longer life (comparing against the expected life of standard Briggs & Stratton E Series Engine). 

Week 4 (February 22nd–29th) concludes with awarding one lucky winner the Craftsman Pro Series 20 HP 42” Riding Mower, which features Consistent Cut Technology, the power and durability of a Kohler 7000 Elite Series engine, and more.

So what are you waiting for? Enter today and every day in February for your chance to win an amazing tool to help beautify your backyard.

To learn more about the Craftsman brand, click here.

The “Bob Vila’s $3,500 Get Your Green On Give-Away from the Craftsman Brand” is open only to permanent legal U.S. residents of the 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia; residents of Alaska and Hawaii are not eligible. Void in all other geographic locations. No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited. Contest Period runs from 12:00 p.m. (EST) Sunday, January 31st, 2016, through 11:59 a.m. Monday, February 29th, 2016. One entry per household per day on BobVila.com. Alternative means of entry for Drawing is available by faxing your name and address to 508-437-8486 during the applicable Entry Period. Odds of winning depend on the number of eligible entries received. See Official Rules.


How To: Make Your Own Carpet Cleaner

Whether caused by foot traffic or just long-term wear and tear, dingy carpet can really bring down the appearance of an entire room. Get your carpeted spaces looking as good as new by using this homemade solution to get rid of stains and lingering dirt.

Homemade Carpet Cleaner

Photo: fotosearch.com

The more you entertain, the more likely it is that you’ll have to deal with stains. A spilled glass of wine, a smudge of dirt—it’s frustrating to see stubborn stains on an otherwise clean carpet. But stains aren’t the only problem. You also need to worry about the effects of long-term wear and tear. Over time, it’s inevitable that carpeting will start to lose its brand-new sheen. Before you spend big bucks on a heavy-duty over-the-counter rug shampoo, try whipping up your own homemade carpet cleaner and giving dingy areas (and errant stains) a good scrub. We’ve got the perfect recipe—all you need to do is set aside a weekend to concentrate on getting your carpeting truly clean.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- 2 tablespoons liquid detergent
- 1/4 cup all-purpose cleaner (for example, Formula 409)
- 1 scoop OxiClean
- 1 teaspoon Downy fabric softener (optional)
- 1 gallon hot water
- Protective gloves
- Large bowl
- One-gallon pot
- Carpet cleaning machine

Homemade Carpet Cleaner - Clean Carpet Pile

Photo: fotosearch.com

STEP 1
Pour 1 gallon of water into the pot and set it to boil on the stove. While you’re waiting for the water to boil, put on your rubber gloves and combine the liquid detergent, all-purpose cleaner, OxiClean, and fabric softener (if you opt to use it) in a large bowl.

STEP 2
Wait a few minutes until the cleaning products have dissolved. (The OxiClean is typically in powder form, which means you may need to stir the mixture a bit.) Next, slowly add in the gallon of hot water. Be sure to pour it gently so you don’t create too many bubbles, which can lead to air pockets inside the carpet cleaner.

STEP 3
Next, pull out your carpet cleaning machine. (There are many models on the market, but if you’re not interested in investing in one, check with your local home improvement store to see if they rent out machines.) Transfer the solution to your carpet cleaner, following the instructions for the appliance. Keep in mind that the cleaning solution you’ve made already contains a fair amount of water, so you can use it at full strength in the carpet cleaner.

STEP 4
Before you start cleaning your carpets, test a small spot to make sure that the machine cleans properly and that neither the solution nor the machine damages the carpeting. Remember, carpets are made of different materials; you don’t want to worsen the stain or harm your carpet. Also be careful not to use too much cleaning solution, because soapy residue can harm the carpet, and too much moisture can lead to mildew. Wait at least 24 hours for the test spot to dry to see the results.

STEP 5
After you’ve checked the efficacy of the machine, run over your entire carpet with the machine, paying special attention to stains and areas that look particularly dingy. Just as you did with the test spot, wait at least 24 hours for your carpeting to dry, and then you’re done!


3 Fixes for Unsightly Cords

Sure, you need them to power up your devices, but wouldn’t it be nice if cords could just be banished from view? These 3 solutions prove that where there's a wire, there's a way.

After you’ve spent years getting your living spaces in line, it can be almost maddening to walk into a room that has everything in its place only to have your eyes linger on unsightly wires that run rampant from your electrical devices. While you may think that there’s no cure for this tangly trouble, don’t be discouraged. Instead, try one of these three inexpensive DIY projects to disguise those cords hanging from your TV, computer, lamps, and more—you’ll preserve your sanity and your cash.

 

MAGIC MANTEL

hiding-cords-flat-screen-tv

Photo: julieblanner.com

Mounting the TV is popular among homeowners in quest of a clean-lined living space. But along with the sophistication of a sleek, lofty screen comes an array of dangling cords that can make your viewing area look more dorm room than curated creation. To conceal a smattering of wires, try this makeshift mantel that tucks stray cords beneath an inexpensive molding. Start by choosing a style of crown molding shelf that best matches your room’s aesthetic. Julie Blanner, the brains behind this brilliant fix, chose a traditional white version to complement her classic living room. Next, measure and mark the shelf on both ends, and cut it down to the exact size you need. Feed the cords through one side of the molding—Julie drilled a hole in her built-ins to further camouflage the unpleasant necessities—and then attach the shelf with glue. Voilà! Movie night just got so much better.

 

PRETTY PEGS

how to hide wires - pegboard

Photo: organizingmadefun.com

If a jumble of computer cords is cramping your desk style, try this solution from Organizing Made Fun that will stealthily stash away wires while keeping them accessible. First, cut a piece of pegboard to size, about 1/4 inch smaller on all sides than the space beneath the desk so you’ll be easily able to pull back the board to reach the cords. Next, give the pegboard a few coats of spray paint, or leave it blank—whatever best matches your decor. Use cable ties threaded through the pegboard holes to attach a power strip to the back of the board so that the outlets face the wall, then secure the board in place using light clips and Velcro. This combination of fasteners will ensure that your designated disguiser won’t tip forward yet will still be easy to remove whenever you need to unplug.

 

SLEEK AND DISCREET

how to hide wires - furniture

Photo: inmyownstyle.com

Now you see them, now you don’t! That’s how we feel about this clever trick from Diane of In My Own Style, which discreetly hides wires in the nooks and crannies of furniture. First, gather a wire basket, a power strip, an extension cord, cup hooks, and clear cord organizing clips. Cut one of the corner pieces off the basket using a wire cutter, and then use cable ties to secure the extension cord to the basket. Next, screw in cup hooks to attach the basket upside down to the bottom of your desk so that the extension cord remains easily accessible. Using the clear cord organizing clips, run cords and wires up the legs and along the underside of your tabletop until you reach the power strip. Thread the cords through the hole in the basket, and plug ‘em in for a seemingly wireless experience.


Quick Tip: The Simplest Way to Clean a Dusty TV Screen

If dust is as glued to the tube as you are, check out the small-screen talents of these everyday cleaning companions that can keep your binge-watching crystal clear.

Cleaning a Flat Screen TV

Photo: ikea.com

Cleaning a Flat Screen TV - Dusting

Photo: fotosearch.com

One of life’s simplest pleasures is plopping down in front of the TV to watch your favorite show. But sometimes when you tune in to your beloved comedies, mysteries, and old westerns, you may notice that your flat-screen TV is mired in a dust bowl drama of its own, with accumulated dirt, debris, and fingerprints fading its shine and clouding your view. While the glass screens of old-school TVs  can handle Windex and other store-bought products, the LCD screens of today’s models have delicate pixels that can be damaged by many common cleansers. Before you reach for a chemical-laden specialty cleaner, try using humble materials already under your roof to bust the dust on your flat-screen.

To start, turn off your TV and let it cool to reduce the risk of static shock and also to make the imperfections easier to see. Because paper towels and hand tissues have wood-based fibers that can wear away the screen’s antiglare coat, choose a clean, lint-free microfiber cloth or a cotton T-shirt to do your dirty work. Dab or spray a well-mixed solution of equal parts vinegar and water onto your cloth—never spray liquid directly onto the TV—and, using moderate pressure, gently wipe the cloth over the screen from left to right and then top to bottom before tackling the frame. Vinegar, however, isn’t the only kitchen staple that can destroy dirt on contact: Using the same motion, you can slide an unused coffee filter over the screen to capture dust and cut screen static faster than you can make a cup of joe!

Repeat this ritual at least once a week to maintain the crystal-clear finish of your flat-screen. Don’t forget to extend the same consideration to your TV’s hardworking partner—the remote control. Using a cotton swab saturated in rubbing alcohol, sweep dust from the crevices of the clicker. And when you’re all done, press the power button and get settled in for an ultra-vivid TV marathon!


A Smart Add-On to Boost Boiler Efficiency by 15% or More

If an older boiler drives your heating system, there's a good chance you can achieve greater efficiency by augmenting the appliance with an outdoor reset control. Affordable and easily installed, the technology ensures that you spend no more than necessary to keep your home comfortable throughout the winter months.

Photo: supplyhouse.com

This time of year, homeowners around the country bemoan the high cost of home heating and naturally seek out ways to reduce their costs. A point of frustration is that, while there’s no shortage of energy-saving measures to pursue, many offer only a modest payoff in relation to the amount of time or money required to put them into effect. That said, if yours is a hydronic heating system, you have a simple, affordable, and highly effective option at your disposal. Install an outdoor reset boiler control, and you can ensure that you spend no more than necessary to keep your home warm throughout the winter season.

To appreciate the value of the device, remember that hydronic systems are designed to output enough heat to compensate for the heat loss incurred on the coldest days of the year. Most of the time, however, temperatures are not so extreme, making it unnecessary for the boiler to run at maximum capacity. But while newer boilers are capable of self-regulating, but the typical older model “fires at full blast, even if it’s 50 degrees outside,” according to Daniel O’Brian, a technical specialist with SupplyHouse.com. That means, O’Brian continues, “You may be wasting a lot of money on heating that your home doesn’t really need.”

Photo: supplyhouse.com

When the alternative is to purchase a new boiler, many homeowners choose instead to install an outdoor reset control. The latter costs only a few hundred dollars, but works to make any existing, traditional boiler considerably more energy efficient. How? By means of a discrete, electronic sensor positioned on the home exterior, the device actively monitors the outdoor temperature. Then, based on its reading, a microprocessor calculates the heating demand and adjusts the performance of the boiler accordingly. That way, the boiler never runs harder or for longer than necessary to achieve the desired indoor temperature.

“Outdoor reset controls save money and increase comfort; it’s as simple as that,” O’Brian says. On the one hand, by modulating the boiler, the device increases the efficiency of the appliance by at least 15 percent, saving the homeowner no small amount on month-to-month utility bills. On the other hand, it leads to a more pleasant living environment by eliminating the dramatic temperature swings that inevitably occur in any home whose boiler goes back and forth between inactivity and full-capacity operation. “There’s a good reason why newer boilers have outdoor reset control technology built-in,” O’Brian points out.

Among the outdoor reset controls on the market, different models come with different features. For instance, some include an automatic boiler differential function, which helps homeowner save even more by preventing the heating system from short-cycling—that is, operating in inefficient bursts—when there’s a low level of heating demand. Others feature a “warm weather shut down” mode, which turns off the boiler on unseasonably warm days, when the outdoor temperature rises above a certain preset threshold point. The value of such features, O’Brian says, “depends on your needs and the climate where you live.”

The experts at SupplyHouse.com are always be on hand to help homeowners choose the right product, but it’s important to note that for installation, it’s recommended that you contract with a professional. Even if you’re a veteran home handyman, “there are a lot of variables to consider, and any oversights can pose serious problems for the performance of your heating system, not to mention causing permanent damage to your boiler.” For homeowners, O’Brian concludes, it’s best to concentrate on the results of an outdoor reset control installation. “Compare your bills before and after,” he says. “You’ll like what you see.”

Photo: supplyhouse.com

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


3 Ways to Get Fresher Indoor Air This Winter

Stuffy, dust-heavy air need not be a fact of life in winter. This year, pursue a healthy, invigorating environment with a suite of improvements designed to help you breath easy at home.

Winter Indoor Air Quality Solutions

Photo: fotosearch.com

This season, as temperatures drive lower and lower, it’s only natural for people to retreat into the safety and comfort of their warm, inviting homes. There’s only one problem: With the doors closed and the windows tightly sealed—in other words, with a lot less fresh air circulating throughout the home—many complain of dry, stuffy, and overall unpleasant conditions. Others harbor genuine health concerns, based on reports that a wide range of household products and furnishings release impurities that can linger in the air. Fortunately, if you wish to maintain a comfortable, healthy home, not only during the winter, but year-round, you’ve got a number of options. You don’t have to worry over choosing the right strategy, either. As homeowner awareness of the issue has risen in recent years, so too has the number of companies that address indoor air quality concerns. Sears Home Services, for instance, routinely offers free in-home consultations, with experienced professionals able to guide you toward an effective solution. David Kenyon, an HVAC specialist with the company, summarizes, “There’s no single approach that works every time.” The challenge is to strike upon the “correct combination” of measures that, working in tandem, “make a real, noticeable difference.” Read on to learn about three improvements commonly recommended by Sears.

 

1. FURNACE MAINTENANCE

Winter Indoor Air Quality Solutions - Furnace Maintenance

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“In terms of maintenance, the average HVAC system isn’t so different from a car,” says Kenyon. “For peak performance, the hardworking internal components often require replacement or repair.” Without care and attention, heating systems fail to operate as designed, and in homes heated by a furnace, indoor air quality may suffer. The reason is that, while every forced-air furnace contains a filter, not every filter works equally well to take dust, germs, and other particulates out of the air. If you haven’t checked yours in years, there’s a good chance that it’s a traditional fiberglass filter. While good enough to protect the heating appliance, such filters do little to protect the air you breathe. Newer, better-quality furnace filters catch even microscopic impurities, removing them from circulation. There’s a catch, though. Kenyon says that, compared to their fiberglass forebears, “high-efficiency filters must be cleaned or replaced more often, about every three months.” That’s one of the reasons why many homeowners schedule regular system check-ups with a provider like Sears Home Services. At your request, in addition to inspecting the appliance, technicians are able to clean or replace the filter, ensuring the furnace plays its part in purifying the indoor air.

 

2. DUCTWORK CLEANING

Winter Indoor Air Quality Maintenance - Ductwork Cleaning

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If you’re like most people in homes with forced-air heating, you rarely consider the network of ducts engineered to channel air from the furnace to your living spaces. It’s well worth taking a second look, though, if you’re dissatisfied with your indoor air quality. According to Kenyon from Sears, “ducts are notorious for collecting and distributing irritants and allergens.” You can try to corral things like dust and pet dander before they enter the ductwork and spread, but “it’s always going to be a losing battle,” Kenyon says. After all, he continues, “dust is ubiquitous.” So what can be done to prevent ductwork from exacerbating indoor air quality problems? Grab a flashlight, choose a room, and, after removing the grate from the return register, peer inside to assess. If you notice an accumulation of dust and debris, “that may be why you’re sneezing all the time,” Kenyon says. It may be tempting to try cleaning out the ductwork on your own, but special tools and techniques are needed to do a comprehensive job. For instance, Sears Home Services utilizes truck-mounted suction equipment. If you’re convinced your dusty ducts are part of the problem, seek out a local pro or book online with Sears today.

 

3. AIR PURIFIER INSTALLATION

Winter Indoor Air Quality Solution - Air Purification Systems

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To remove the toxins that are invisible to the naked eye, health-conscious homeowners often opt for an air purification system, be it a standalone or an add-on to the central HVAC system. The upside of working with a nationwide company like Sears Home Services is that, unlike many smaller outfits, Sears routinely installs air purifiers of all types and, well versed in their differences, the company can help you choose the best approach for your home. “Different air purification systems rely on different technologies, each with its own set of pros and cons,” says Kenyon. Some use ultraviolet light, while others employ high-efficiency particulate arrestance (HEPA). Still others—namely, photo catalytic oxidization (PCO) systems—combine multiple technologies in one. After an initial consultation and survey of your home, Sears specialists can handle the process from start to finish, recommending and installing a purification technology whose capabilities correspond to your specific indoor air quality concerns.

 

Kenyon concludes by highlighting the elusive, hard-to-pin-down nature of indoor air quality issues. “If a baseball flies out of the backyard and breaks a window, you can see damage. You can see the broken glass. You can see the problem.” When it comes to indoor air quality, though, “you’re dealing with a problem that needs to be carefully evaluated.” For that reason, if you doubt the purity of the air in your home, Kenyon suggests the modest first step of arranging a visit from a trained, certified professional, specializing in HVAC. “Once the problem is understood, then the solution follows not far behind.”

Winter Indoor Air Quality Solutions - Curtains and Blinds

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