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New Engineered Countertops Fuse Beauty and Brawn for a No-Compromise Kitchen

Who says you can’t have it both ways? DuPont’s latest collections of Corian and Zodiaq countertops combine form and function to achieve crave-worthy kitchens.

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No Compromise Counters - Zodiaq Concrete Carrara

Photo: dupont.com

In most families, the kitchen is the heart of home life. It’s a space for so much more than meal prep—its countertops host casual family breakfasts, pinch-hit as desks for homework, and proffer refreshments when guests come over. These varied uses call for surfaces that can withstand food stains, scratches from sliding dishes, and dents from metal cookware—while still providing that touch of style that enlivens a kitchen’s decor. While many conventional countertop materials sacrifice form for function, or vice versa, Corian® solid surface and Zodiaq® quartz countertops from DuPont boast everlasting durability and striking visual appeal so homeowners can show off their design and culinary chops. Find out how the inspired colors of new countertop collections from Corian and Zodiaq can help you achieve high-performance and high-art counters even in a high-traffic kitchen.

No Compromise Counters - Zodiaq Provence

Photo: dupont.com

Alluring Durability
More than just pretty surfaces, countertops fashioned from Corian solid surface or Zodiaq quartz are also rugged and robust. Both materials feature a nonporous, nontoxic, and heat-resistant composite that repels food and liquid stains, mold, mildew, and bacteria—all unwelcome in the cook space. Thanks to the natural minerals and acrylic polymer of Corian solid surface, and the smooth but tough luster of Zodiaq pure quartz, these countertops need only a regular once-over with a cloth and nonabrasive cleaner to stay spotless.

Fortunately for the busy homeowner, the dynamic duo of countertops is as easy to maintain as it is to clean. Engineered with quartz crystals, Zodiaq countertops are scratch resistant, providing home chefs with peace of mind as they race through food prep multiple times a day. Corian’s collections smartly utilize matte finishes in the lighter colors, and for bolder surfaces, DeepColor technology offers greater depth of color and pattern—all of which diminish any superficial blemishes to a barely-there status while intensifying the vibrant hue of the countertops. Beyond that, “minor scratches can be easily buffed out, creating a constant ‘brand-new’ appearance,” says Katie Congress, North American Marketing Manager for Corian and Zodiaq. The result: Hardworking surfaces that look good for years to come.

Eye-Catching and On-Trend Color Schemes
The newest collections of Corian and Zodiaq countertop designs and colors are a response to a growing trend in residential kitchen design: inspiration from nature. With the new White, Blue, Earth Tone, and Gray collections, homeowners can get the best of both worlds—the raw beauty of natural materials without any of the fussy maintenance that granite and other stone kitchen surfaces demand.

“There has been an increased desire for the look of natural stone,” Congress says, “so the new colors of both Corian and Zodiaq include aesthetics that mimic the natural stone look.” New styles, such as Provence and Concrete Carrara from Zodiaq as well as Sand Storm from Corian, even go so far as to imitate the speckles, flecks, and swirls of favorite from-the-earth materials.

Similarly, color schemes pulled from foliage, forest trails, and majestic mountain passes are gaining traction, appearing in sprawling statement surfaces throughout the kitchen and bathroom. This natural inspiration is evident in earthy collections like Corian Deep Terrain and Zodiaq Evergreen. Even the Gray collection has gotten into the act, with new warm, cool, light, and dark takes on the go-to neutral that has become so popular in the last few years, according to Congress.

Along with their shared nod to nature, the 16 unique new Corian and Zodiaq hues are also unified by their broad appeal to homeowners of all design sensibilities, from traditional to contemporary. “Crisp whites offer that both timeless and modern look, while blues, softened yellows and golds, and greens inspire joy in people,” Congress says. “New darker gray tones convey a touch of prestige and authority, elevating any interior.”

Turning the spotlight onto the kitchen, any number of the private collection colors look striking on an island or countertop. Congress notes that Zodiaq Concrete Carrara, Onyx Carrara, and Blue Carrara all showcase natural stone-like movement that makes a stunning contrast to the backgrounds. And for homeowners who wind up with two favorites, there really is no need to settle on a single choice: “Material combinations are very popular right now, and solid surface and quartz make a great combination,” she explains. “Try a Zodiaq island with a Corian counter, or a Zodiaq counter with a Corian backsplash.”

For even more possibilities, download the Design Horizons Trend Guide, and reach out to a DuPont representative to discuss how Corian and Zodiaq can elevate your kitchen countertops to dazzling new heights.

No Compromise Counters - Corian Deep Titanium

Photo: dupont.com

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


How To: Balance a Ceiling Fan

When your overhead spinner starts acting up, follow these moves to restore the quiet—and the cool.

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How to Balance a Ceiling Fan

Photo: istockphoto.com

Even in the age of central air, ceiling fans still have their lofty place. The welcome breeze they provide evaporates sweat and contributes to the cooling effect every home calls for in summer. So if yours seems out of whack—wobbling weirdly, making a racket—fret not. The fix is in!

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Ladder
- Damp rags or paper towels
- Screwdriver
- Ruler or yardstick
- Blade balancing kit
- Pennies (optional)
- Painter’s or masking tape (optional)
- Superglue (optional)

How to Balance a Ceiling Fan - With a Ladder

Photo: istockphoto.com

STEP 1
Banish dust, perhaps the most common cause of a wonky ceiling fan. You’ve got an excuse—it’s easy to forget to look up when cleaning—but neglect can cause big-time buildup. Dust settles unevenly on the blades, making some heavier than others and throwing the entire enterprise off-balance. It’s likely that you’ll need more than a swipe of a feather duster at this point, especially if dust has hardened. So, with the fan off and the blades completely still, climb the ladder and take a damp rag, towel, or pillowcase to both sides of each blade. Then dry with a fresh rag and give the fan a spin to see if the problem’s been solved.

STEP 2
Still got the shakes? The next most likely culprit is a loose screw at the base, where the blades meet the flywheel. Climb back on the ladder and give each screw a clockwise turn with your screwdriver. If you tighten any loose ones, you may have done the trick. Get down from the ladder and flip the switch to see. If so, remember to check the screws every few months to avoid a recurring issue. If not, proceed to the next step.

STEP 3
If blades continue to misbehave, it’s up the ladder again to check their alignment. Using a ruler or yardstick, measure precisely from the ceiling to the blade at the same three points on each: close to the flywheel at the center of the fan, about halfway down the length of the blade, and at the tip. If any of the numbers don’t match up, gently bend the blade holder manually up or down to straighten. Just take care not to apply too much pressure—you don’t want to break a blade or holder.

STEP 4
A stubbornly wobbly fan may have a blade that’s simply lighter or heavier than the others, creating an uneven pull. To test it out, examine your fan on each of its settings to see which speed makes it shake most (usually the highest). Once you’ve determined the problem setting, switch off the fan and when it’s still, either follow the directions on a balancing kit, or try the penny method in the next step.

STEP 5
Using painters’ or masking tape, firmly attach a penny to the top of a blade, close to the center, and then check the fan’s functioning. You may have to do some troubleshooting to determine which blade needs the extra weight and exactly where it should go, so be patient, starting from the center of each blade and working your way out a few inches at a time. Once you’ve found a placement that relieves the issue, replace the tape with a few drops of superglue. Allow glue to dry completely before giving the fan a final spin to make sure the penny is performing. If wobbling persists but it’s not as pronounced, one or two additional, perfectly placed pennies should do the job. Keep it up through trial and error until you’ve found the right locations, and then glue the pennies on permanently.

Still confronting a fan frustration? Blades may have gotten warped due to humidity or age. Before you scrap the whole apparatus, purchase a set of replacement blades, which you can find for under $10 each. Then sit back and enjoy the downwind!


How To: Repair Concrete Steps

Over time, as a result of constant foot traffic and the ravages of the elements, outdoor stairs can start to deteriorate. You can reverse damage and keep your stairs looking as good as new with a little maintenance and some innovative, effective products that simplify and speed up concrete repairs.

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How to Repair Concrete Steps

Photo: istockphoto.com

For construction professionals and homeowners alike, concrete offers many appealing qualities, but there may be none greater than its undeniable durability. In many instances, concrete can last for decades without deteriorating or requiring much at all in the way of maintenance. But particularly when it’s used outdoors, where it’s exposed to the elements year-round and beset by extreme temperatures and punishing storms, concrete does slowly but surely weaken. Perhaps no hardscaping feature suffers as much as concrete stairs, which are subject to heavy foot traffic that only serves to hasten deterioration. That said, you can repair damage to your concrete stairs, whether it’s the result of gradual wear and tear or a sudden trauma, with a basic course of maintenance. Thanks to advances in manufacturing and a range of innovative products from CTS Cement | Rapid Set, it’s never been quicker or easier to make repairs to concrete. Though the process is pretty straightforward no matter the condition of the concrete, the approach you choose will depend on whether you’re dealing with mere cosmetic flaws or more significant structural issues. In either case, rest assured that you can restore the appearance of your steps while potentially adding years to their lifespan. Read on for the details.

 

SUPERFICIAL DAMAGE

Photo: istockphoto.com

Believe it or not, concrete has something in common with a plain white tablecloth—both are capable of getting stained. Of course, there’s no practical harm associated with discoloration, so depending on the location of the stairs in question, you may or may not feel the need to intervene. If the affected stairs are in a highly visible location—leading up to your home’s entrance, for instance—then cosmetic reasons alone may be all the motivation you need to seek a solution. In addition to stains, you should be on the lookout for a range of other minor, superficial issues that commonly plague concrete installations outdoors. Check for signs of weathering, flaking, or crazing (shallow, spiderweb-like cracks). If any such imperfections are compromising the appearance of your stairs, remember this: You can give the concrete a like-new look and a renewed lease on life with a resurfacer like NewCrete from CTS Cement | Rapid Set. You simply spread the product over the existing surface, leaving behind a smooth, blemish-free replacement layer. Best of all, NewCrete works quickly and self-cures. Once you have applied it, there are no additional, tedious steps to complete. Within two to three hours, your transformed stairs will be ready to accept foot traffic again.

Although there’s no more straightforward way to revive tired concrete, there are still nuances to working with NewCrete or another resurfacer. For starters, before doing anything else, remember to clean the stairs thoroughly, removing all dirt and debris (including loose concrete). Here, a power washer can be an effective tool and a real time-saver, but an old-fashioned wire brush works too. Next, after preparing the area, move on to preparing your chosen resurfacer. Specific guidelines vary by manufacturer, but with NewCrete, use a drill-mounted paddle mix to combine water and the resurfacer mix in a bucket. Then work the material for a few minutes until it resembles pancake batter. The final step? Dampen the existing concrete stairs, then add the NewCrete, using a trowel to smooth and shape it. Note that a couple of nonstandard trowels may prove handy along the way. When, for instance, you’re trying to achieve a crisp line along the outer edge of a stair tread, your best bet may be a nose trowel. Meanwhile, for the inside edge where a tread meets a riser, opt for a cove trowel. Once you have applied, shaped, and smoothed the NewCrete, there’s nothing more to do. Other products may require a time-intensive water curing process, but NewCrete cures entirely on its own—and with remarkable speed.

 

STRUCTURAL DAMAGE

Photo: istockphoto.com

While you may opt not to make a cosmetic fix—it’s purely elective, after all—structural damage is another matter entirely and should be repaired sooner rather than later. For one thing, structural problems in concrete only get worse, particularly with each passing winter, until the installation deteriorates so badly that it needs to be fully replaced. There’s also the fact that compromised concrete can be a tripping hazard, never more so than on stairs. Certainly, structural repairs are more demanding than cosmetic ones, and badly damaged concrete requires a particularly high level of effort. But even so, solutions like Rapid Set Cement All enable you to shore up failing concrete on your own, and to do so easily and quickly, even without a contractor. Relative to other repair compounds, Cement All stands out for many reasons. For one, Cement All boasts superior adhesion, helping facilitate bonding with the damaged concrete. As well, Cement All—rated three times stronger than most concrete—provides ample, lasting strength. Most of all, though, homeowners appreciate how rapidly the product sets and cures. Indeed, if you make your repair with Cement All, you can go back to regular use of the stairs in just an hour.

Whether the damage involves the horizontal or vertical surfaces of the steps, start by eliminating any loose material that could interfere with proper bonding. As you go, look for deep cracks and take the time to chisel their edges smooth (and, of course, brush away any debris that results). Once you have made the steps as clean as possible, roughen and dampen the surface or surfaces you plan to address. Then, to prepare the Cement All, combine the mix with the recommended quantity of water. Continue working the mixture, either manually or with a drill-mounted paddle mixer, until it has achieved a peanut butter-like consistency. Ready? Trowel Cement All onto each damaged area, taking special care to get it into any cracks or holes. Pack the cement to the desired level, but depending on the nature of the repair, note that it may be necessary to use a wooden form to help the compound retain the desired shape. Given stairs’ blocky character, a form can typically be made from scrap wood nailed into an L shape and then positioned firmly against the riser, with its top edge level with the surface of the stair tread. To finish, smooth the Cement All with either a trowel or float, and then, once the surface has lost its moist sheen, proceed to water cure. That’s it!

Bear in mind that you can always use Cement All and NewCrete in tandem, as a tag-team remedy for the full spectrum of issues that threaten to destroy any concrete installation. This powerful pair will leave your concrete stairs not only structurally sound but looking like new. While Cement All fortifies, NewCrete beautifies—and because both products set and cure so rapidly, it’s possible to breeze through a job in one day, or even in one afternoon. Speed matters: If the stairs serve as the main access to the house or lie along a frequently traveled part of the property, a long and drawn-out repair process can be a real nuisance. As well, when you’re dealing with a material that lasts as long as concrete does, over the years you’re bound to encounter more than one occasion for maintenance. After all, foot traffic and the passage of time both take their toll. You’ll want every repair job to go as quickly and smoothly as possible. Fortunately, so long as you rely on innovative, rapid-setting repair products from CTS Cement | Rapid Set, you’ll be able to maintain the longevity and looks of your concrete steps while still leaving plenty of time for all your other to-do’s—or for that matter, some well-deserved rest and relaxation.

Photo: istockphoto.com

This article has been brought to you by CTS Cement | Rapid Set. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.


How To: Paint Stucco

When your rough-textured walls fade or get dirty, treat them to a DIY redo.

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How to Paint Stucco - On a House Exterior

Photo: istockphoto.com

Stucco is a particularly popular exterior finish for homes in the Southwest, but it can also be found texturing interior walls all over the country. Created by layering a cement-and-plaster compound with a variety of plastering tools, its rough appearance is both visually appealing and rather low-maintenance—a favorable combination for homeowners. When stucco appears dingy, it needs little more than a hosing off with warm, soapy water. A new coat of paint can offer an even greater refresh, though, and it’s one project most homeowners can tackle with confidence, provided that the surface is in otherwise good condition (no chips or cracks). To achieve a finished job that looks like it was done by a pro, follow these guidelines for how to paint stucco.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Drop cloths
- Masking or painter’s tape
- Stiff brush
- Vacuum with dust attachment
- Degreaser or mildew cleaner (optional)
- Power washer (optional, for exteriors)
- Masonry caulk
- Caulk gun
- Putty knife
- Stucco patching compound
- Synthetic paintbrush
- Large napped paint roller
- Primer (exterior masonry or acrylic interior)
- Acrylic paint (exterior or interior, based on location)

How to Paint Stucco - Gray Stucco

Photo: istockphoto.com

STEP 1
Prepare the surrounding area. Put drop cloths on the floor and furniture that can’t be moved, and tape trim.

STEP 2
Clean stucco surfaces of dirt and dust. For most exterior stucco, this simply requires a thorough going over with a stiff brush or push broom. Interior walls may be more easily vacuumed using a dusting attachment. If your walls have grease or grime or mildew build-up, apply an appropriate cleaner, following manufacturer’s directions. Deeply grooved exteriors can be power washed, if necessary, to get dirt out of the crevices. Be sure to rinse thoroughly, and allow to dry completely for 24 hours before you begin to caulk and repair.

STEP 3
Fix any small cracks with masonry caulk. Cracks larger than 1/16-inch-wide will require a patch. Remove the loose stucco with a putty knife, and repair with stucco patching compound. Pay attention to the manufacturer’s suggested curing time on your patching compound. You may need to wait for up to 10 days before you can paint.

STEP 4
Prime with a high quality acrylic primer, using a synthetic brush to cut in, and a large napped roller to roll it on. Acrylic primers and paints are preferred because their binders mean better adherence to the uneven stucco finish. A large napped roller makes for easier application into all the nooks and crannies.

You’ll probably need more than one coat for complete coverage. It is better to apply two thinner coats than one thick coat, to avoid paint pooling in crevices and causing drips. Follow the manufacturer’s guidance on drying times between coats.

STEP 5
Due to its texture, a stucco finish has a much greater overall surface area than a flat wall, so you’ll need more paint than you think to achieve adequate coverage. If a gallon of paint says it gives you 400 square feet of coverage, assume you’ll cover 200 square feet of stucco. Apply paint as you did primer, with a synthetic brush for cutting in, and a large napped roller for rolling the walls. Roll on one to two coats, as necessary, and follow the manufacturer’s guidance with regard to drying time between coats.

How to Paint Stucco

Photo: istockphoto.com

It’s amazing what a fresh coat of paint will do to revitalize a tired, dirty stucco finish. A good quality exterior paint job should last 15 to 20 years; indoors, it should last as until styles change and you tire of the color. So, enjoy it while it lasts!


All of the Expert Painting Advice from BobVila.com
Of all the options available to remodelers, paint provides the quickest, easiest, and most affordable way to achieve a transformation, inside or out. Ready to look at your home in a new way? Click now for the color ideas to make your project beautiful.


How To: Remove a Bathtub

Tackle this task and you’ll be a giant step closer to the at-home oasis (or extra square footage!) you’ve always wanted.

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How to Remove a Bathtub

Photo: istockphoto.com

Maybe you dream of upgrading to a modern jetted model, or simply want to switch to a stall shower to gain square footage—whatever your reason, that old bathtub has got to go. While a cast iron tub of yesteryear can weigh as much as 500 pounds, removing it yourself (well, with three or four strong friends) is entirely doable. You’ll need the right tools, of course, and some plumbing know-how is helpful when disconnecting drainage and water supply lines. But if you follow the procedures outlined here, the process of removing a bathtub should go smoothly.

Before starting, protect the floor from damage by laying down sheets of plywood. And keep in mind that your junk may be another homeowner’s joy: Cast iron claw foot tubs can fetch as much as $800 on the salvage market, and the feet alone could net you upwards of 40 bucks!

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Screwdrivers (various sizes)
- Needle nose pliers or drain flange removal tool
- Pipe wrenches or water pump pliers
- Reciprocating saw with drywall or metal blade
- Handheld grinder with diamond bit (in needed for tile removal)
- Chisel (if needed for tile removal)
- Utility knife
- Crowbar (optional)
- Safety goggles
- Sledgehammer
- Rust-removing solvent (optional)
- Pipe plugs or caps
- PVC cleaner (for capping PVC drainpipe)
- PVC glue (for capping PVC drainpipe)
- Plumber’s putty (for capping galvanized drainpipe)
- Plumber’s tape (for capping galvanized drainpipe)
- Push-to-connect end caps (for capping water supply lines)

STEP 1
Shut off the water supply. Freestanding models generally have a shutoff valve on the exposed line that runs to the faucets, but for other bathtubs you may need to turn off the H2O to the bathroom or even the entire house. Open tub faucets and another faucet in the house to bleed the water pressure off the lines. When no more water runs from the tub faucet, you’re ready to move on.

STEP 2
Remove the overflow and stopper assembly. These vary slightly by bathtub, but typically the overflow consists of a plate with one or two screws that holds a stopper lever. Once the plate is unscrewed and removed, slip the lever hook off the linkage bar with your fingers. Next, disconnect the stopper from the drain by unscrewing or pulling, depending on type.

STEP 3
Remove the drain flange with a dedicated drain flange removal tool, or stick a pair of needle nose pliers in the drain flange, twist counterclockwise, and pull. If yours is a freestanding tub, gather your able-bodied buddies: You might be able to lift it up and off the drainpipe at this point. For built-ins—or if the drain flange on a freestanding tub is stuck—proceed to the next step.

STEP 4.
Detach the drainpipe. For a freestanding tub, reach underneath and cut through the drainpipe close to the bottom of the bathtub with a reciprocating saw that is fitted with a metal blade. For built-in tubs, you’ll have to gain access from below, through a basement or crawlspace, to disconnect the drainpipe. Use pipe wrenches or water pump pliers to grasp and twist the pipe loose at a connection. If the joints are glued PVC, cut the line with a reciprocating saw.

How to Remove a Bathtub - DIY Removal

Photo: istockphoto.com

STEP 5
Cut away a horizontal strip of wall about 6 inches above the bathtub to reveal the tub flange, and remove any screws that secure the flange to the wall studs. You can use a reciprocating saw to cut wallboard, but take care not to cut the studs or any mechanical elements, such as wires or pipes that might be in the stud spaces. If the wall is tiled, use a grinder with a diamond blade to cut through a horizontal grout line and then pop off the individual tiles below with a chisel.

STEP 6
Cut away caulking around the bathtub with a utility knife, and then pull the tub out and onto the plywood. If the bathtub sticks, carefully pry it loose with a crowbar. As soon as you pull the bathtub, stuff a large rag in the top of the now-open drainpipe to block smelly sewer gases; this will also ensure nothing gets accidentally dropped into the line. In high concentrations, sewer gases can be toxic and flammable, but the small amount that filters out of the tub line will be more obnoxious than hazardous.

STEP 7
If the old bathtub has value and you wish to salvage it, remove the feet (which should twist off) counterclockwise. If rusted in place, spray with a rust-removing solvent to loosen. Then carry it out with the help of your friends. Take some measurements first, however: You may need to pull hinge pins and remove a door to gain enough space to fit the bathtub.

If the tub is worthless to you, cover it with an old, heavy towel or blanket and put on goggles and a long-sleeve shirt for extra protection from flying chips. Then break the tub into manageable pieces with a sledgehammer. You can also cut steel, fiberglass, and plastic tubs into smaller pieces with a reciprocating saw.

STEP 8
If you have no plans to install a new bathtub in the old one’s place, you’ll need to terminate the water supply and drain lines. Terminating a drainpipe involves removing the drain trap and the drainpipe back to at least the nearest plumbing connection. Then you can install a cap or plug on the pipe. The process will vary slightly depending on your piping:

• For PVC, cut the pipe with a reciprocating saw, and then clean the pipe end with PVC cleaner. Next, apply PVC glue to both the end of the pipe, and on the inside of a matching PVC cap, and slip the cap over the end of the pipe.
• For galvanized pipes, use pipe wrenches or water pump pliers to loosen the pipes at a joint, and then install a corresponding cap or plug, using plumber’s putty and plumber’s tape to hold the cap in place. If you run into a cast iron trap (very hard, dark metal), or a lead trap (so soft, you can nick it with a knife) that connects to a cast iron drainpipe, call a plumber to cut it to avoid breakage. It’s difficult to cut cast iron pipe without specialized tools.

STEP 9
In order to terminate the water supply lines, you need access to the stud space behind the faucets. If the tub installer did not put in an access panel in the room on the opposite side of the faucets, you’ll have to open up that section of the wall with a reciprocating saw in order to reach the water supply lines.

Once you have access, remove the faucet(s). Pop off the caps with a flathead screwdriver, removing the screws. Then use a pipe wrench to remove the faucet sleeves and stems. The spout may have a setscrew on the underside, or the whole thing might twist off, counterclockwise. After cutting the water supply lines, cap them with corresponding push-to-connect end caps.

With the tub out and both water supply and drain lines successfully sealed, you’re free to repurpose all of that newly opened square footage however you’d like! Whether you plan to turn the room into a half-bath with storage for linens or keep renovating until the entire space is a dreamy walk-in closet, rest assured that the bulk of the work (literally) is done.


The Essential Guide to Summer Home Improvement

Get your house in shape early this summer so you'll have plenty of time to enjoy the season. You can start by reviewing this seasonal guide to home care and maintenance, then finish up with help from Sears Home Services!

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Photo: istockphoto.com

Summertime is here! Yet while school is out for the kids, for their home-owning parents, the seasonal job of maintaining and beautifying the home has only begun. Now is the time for warm-weather tasks, such as inspecting and cleaning the siding, assessing the efficiency of HVAC units, and refreshing or replacing windows. To make lighter work of these summer rituals, use this guide as your starting point. Armed with home care and maintenance insights from experts at Sears Home Services, you’ll soon have your home operating at peak performance and still have plenty of time to enjoy those lazy summer days.

SIDING

Are you (and your neighbors) fed up with your siding? Does it suffer from grime, peeling paint, or simply a lack of aesthetic appeal? Cleaning, accessorizing, and refinishing your siding can not only boost your home’s ability to withstand extreme weather, but also increase its curb appeal and resale value—good news whether you plan to sell or stay put for the rest of your life.

- Inspect and clean: To prolong the life and visual appeal of your siding, give it a semi-annual inspection for structural deformities like chips and cracks, then wash it clean of discoloration, rot, and pests. Before you raid your cleaning supply closet, though, remember that “different siding materials carry different—often very different—care requirements,” says Jim Eldredge, a product manager at Sears Home Services. Bleach and water, for example, may be necessary to tackle coarse brick siding, while a gentler soap-and-water solution is sufficient for wood. Perhaps the simplest type of siding to clean is vinyl. “There’s a reason vinyl has become the most popular type of siding in America,” says Eldredge. It is “virtually maintenance-free” and may require little more than a quick hose-down with water to get it spotless.

- Accessorize: When it comes to beautifying your exterior, small details can make a house shine. Installing exterior accent trim, shingles, or shutters can protect a house from the elements while also giving it a polished appearance. If you’re considering minor upgrades and improvements to your siding, you may wish to request a free in-home consultation with Sears Home Services. Their experts can help you navigate the wealth of options in siding accessories.

- Paint: One of the fastest ways to revive your home’s appearance is to give it a fresh coat of paint. In Eldredge’s view, painting the exterior is of particular value for potential sellers, because it “helps your home stand out from all the others on the block.” Before you begin a paint job, prepare the surface—sand away chipping paint, patch holes, and clean it thoroughly to ensure that the new paint will adhere to the surface and last longer. While exterior painting is a job that a homeowner can certainly tackle, consider how much easier it would be to simply hire the pros at Sears Home Services. Their 10-step process for surface preparation and paint application is designed to produce a paint job that lasts for years and saves you the hassle of doing it yourself.

Photo: istockphoto.com

HVAC

Those shiny new HVAC units may be blasting cool air now, but whether they continue that tip-top performance will depend on how diligently you maintain them. As the cooling season starts, take time to measure the efficiency of your air-conditioning system and consider installing high-performance auxiliary units that can improve comfort without dramatically increasing the energy bill.

- Measure air conditioner efficiency: Before your air conditioner breaks down in the face of triple-digit temperatures, examine the unit for signs of overworking or underperformance. “Standing next to the appliance can tell you a lot about its condition,” says David Kenyon, a product manager at Sears Home Services. If “things don’t sound right,” or if you experience poor air quality or excessive humidity, call a professional to repair or replace the unit.

- Consider a mini-split air conditioner: Do you notice a difference in temperature when you walk from room to room? Uneven cooling is often a by-product of “old, single-blower setups,” says Kenyon. Today, you can achieve more uniform cooling in individual rooms by installing one or more ductless mini-split air conditioners in your home. Unlike central-cooling units, these compact machines can be installed in locations throughout the house to evenly and efficiently cycle cool air into every room, “top to bottom and wall to wall.”

- Install a programmable thermostat: If your thermostat is malfunctioning, don’t delay in fixing it. “Your best bet is to work with a pro,” says Kenyon, “not simply to solve problems, but to prevent problems from occurring.” If you do need to replace an old thermostat, now is the ideal time to upgrade to a programmable model. These customizable thermostats can be programmed to automatically raise the temperature when you’re sleeping or away from the house, and lower the temperature when you’re home and awake, contributing to a more comfortable living environment as well as lower energy bills.

WINDOWS

The same windows that give you a view of the outdoors also offer a view into your home’s structural integrity and security. Your windows serve as a barrier to air, moisture, and intruders. It’s vital to ensure that they’re performing all these functions as efficiently and dependably as possible so you and your family can spend the summer in comfort and safety.

- Evaluate window efficiency: To a longtime homeowner, a persistent draft or a patch of mold or mildew on the windows may seem more like a minor irritant than an urgent problem. But if ignored, escaping air and invading moisture can spike energy costs and wreak havoc on the structural integrity of your home. Issues like these can arise from improper installation, or they could merely be the sign of outdated, inefficient windows. Either way, poor window performance means it may be time to invest in new casings or windows. If replacement is in your future, go for efficient, long-lasting options like Sears Weatherbeater windows, which, by reducing the risk of drafts, moisture damage, and UV glare, can help lower your energy bill. Even better, because they are made of vinyl, they are virtually maintenance-free.

- Ensure security: You no doubt lock the doors before you hit the road for summer vacation, but like many homeowners, you may completely ignore another important entry point: the windows. Even if you don’t think that your home is at risk of a break-in, “security glass is a must,” says Eldredge. When you install Weatherbeater windows from Sears Home Services, you gain the benefits of impact-resistant glass as well as a host of add-ons like dual-cam locks and steel reinforcement, all of which help make your windows a less desirable target for would-be intruders.

Photo: istockphoto.com

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


So, You Want to… Install a Mini-Split

If you're considering switching up your HVAC system, don't ignore the most innovative, flexible, and efficient option—and be sure to seek out the most qualified professionals for the job.

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How to Install a Mini Split

Photo: istockphoto.com

In all but the mildest climates, whenever the temperature soars or plummets, the typical homeowner faces a tough choice between saving money and maintaining a comfortable home. After all, any HVAC technology will all but ensure a pleasant, livable indoor environment, but in doing so, most devour energy and drive up the utility bill. As David Kenyon, a product manager with Sears Home Services, says, “There’s no doubt that comfort usually comes at a cost.” That being the case, it’s perhaps no surprise that more and more homeowners are embracing the mini-split—a high-performance cooling and heating option whose efficiency helps keep expenses low.

Efficiency alone, however, doesn’t fully explain the appeal of mini-splits. On the contrary, their popularity is probably also due to the fact that, as Kenyon says, “mini-splits combine efficiency with versatility.” That is, you can employ the technology on your own terms. Some choose to install a mini-split as a way of delivering comfort to a single room. Others rely on mini-splits for climate control throughout the house, in a zoned configuration that actually enables you to target temperatures on a room-by-room basis. In contrast with systems designed for one specific type of application, mini-splits can be an appropriate choice for almost any residential project, no matter the scope.

Mini-splits offer homeowners another major benefit aside from efficiency and flexibility: They’re much easier to install than many traditional options. To a marked extent, that’s because mini-splits don’t involve ductwork. In a traditional ducted forced-air system, an elaborate network of bulky, rigid metal ducts must be fit into the home, a process that may necessitate extensive renovation. Mini-splits are, by comparison, unobtrusive and more or less hassle-free. “Retrofitting a forced-air system would require a large-scale, perhaps weeks-long effort,” Kenyon says. But because “mini-splits typically don’t require anything but modest alterations,” the installation process often goes quite quickly, sometimes taking no more than a day.

Still, there are several important points to bear in mind when you’re planning to add a mini-split. Read on to learn about the most critical considerations.

Photo: istockphoto.com

Money Matters
“Any HVAC update begins with budgeting,” Kenyon says. In your investigation of the project costs, he continues, “don’t make the mistake of concentrating only on the initial outlay.” For a more accurate picture, it’s important to account for the operating costs as well. Over the long term, thanks to their virtually unparalleled efficiency, mini-splits “prove to be among the most affordable options out there,” according to Kenyon. Several innovations enable mini-splits to conserve energy and, by extension, reduce monthly bills. One is that, as they are ductless, mini-splits do not suffer the same air leakage problems that significantly detract from the overall efficiency of many traditional ducted systems. As well, mini-splits simply require less electricity to power their normal operation. All together, the efficiency features of the best mini-splits work in concert to slash climate-control costs in the average home by as much as 40 percent. Of course, you can’t start saving until the equipment has been installed—and this will incur significant costs. Keep in mind that, while your local contractor may not be able to provide financial assistance, established companies like Sears Home Services offer a selection of financing packages that can help you fit the project into your budget.

Project Scope 
At its most basic, a mini-split installation involves nothing more than an outdoor compressor/condenser, an indoor air handler, and running between the two, a pair of refrigerant lines narrow enough to fit through a three-inch hole. A whole-home application would involve multiple indoor units, with lines running to each unit from one or more outdoor units. In other words, configurations vary. “There’s no one-size-fits-all approach,” Kenyon summarizes. “The right approach depends entirely on your needs.” At the earliest stages of the project, therefore, you must be sure to clarify its scope. Do you want to supplement an existing HVAC system or replace it? Do you wish to cool the space, heat it, or both? Before being able to make your vision a reality, your contractor first needs to understand it. Particularly when it comes to something as complex as climate control, many homeowners appreciate expert advice and insight gained from years of experience. That’s precisely why Sears Home Services project consultants collaborate with homeowners from the earliest planning stages to the final day of installation. And as demonstrated by its Satisfaction Guarantee, Sears remains committed to your success even after completion of a project.

Aesthetic Concerns
Whatever the scope of a mini-split project, the indoor air handler operates the same way, whether it’s the only one or just one of many in the configuration. The air handler is always mounted within the space it’s conditioning, monitoring the ambient conditions and auto-adjusting its output to match the cooling or heating demand at any given time. The heat exchanger within the component works to modulate the air temperature, while the variable vanes of the built-in fan ensure even distribution. Yet, although the air handler always performs the same role, it can take a number of different forms. Perhaps most common are air handlers that mount on the wall, typically several feet above eye level. There’s only one downside: Wall-mounted air handlers can be conspicuous. Homeowners looking to minimize the visual impact often opt instead for a ceiling-recessed unit. Though they are more challenging to install, ceiling-recessed air handlers easily escape notice, because they’re flush with the plane of the ceiling overhead. Yet another option, horizontal-ducted air handlers install within soffits or under the floor, assuming there’s available crawl space. Ultimately, according to Kenyon of Sears Home Services, “the choice boils down to your budget and aesthetic preferences.”

Contractor Qualifications
Forced-air systems, which rose to prominence in the wake of World War II, have been the leading option in HVAC for more than 50 years. Because it’s so ubiquitous, Kenyon points out, “it’s the technology most technicians know best.” Even today, relatively few professionals can boast a long track record of work with mini-splits. Those with experience fully understand, as Kenyon says, that “from poor system sizing to setting the incorrect refrigerant levels, there are many ways in which the installation can go wrong.” Indeed, Kenyon continues, “installing mini-splits properly is an art form all its own.” As that’s the case—and given that it’s your comfort on the line, after all—it behooves the homeowner to seek out a uniquely well-qualified installer. Sears Home Services stands out, because its network includes technicians trained and certified to install and repair all the most popular climate-control options—and mini-splits are no exception. To discuss your upcoming project with experts who have successfully completed similar projects in the past, call or go online now to schedule a free in-home consultation with a nationwide company that has a decades-long history of serving homeowners like you—Sears Home Services.

How to Install a Mini-Split - Outdoor Unit Detail

Photo: istockphoto.com

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


How To: Make Your Own Ant Trap

Send these creepy-crawlers marching elsewhere with the homemade ant trap that best suits your situation.

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Homemade Ant Trap

Photo: istockphoto.com

If you see an ant or two, chances are you’ll see more—many more—especially if there’s something tasty lying around nearby. While more than 12,000 species of ants exist, only a few types are likely to invade your home. The ones that do can be a real nuisance, though, ruining food and giving homeowners the creepy-crawlies. Fortunately, you needn’t shell out for sprays, bombs, or other insecticides, since an effective homemade ant trap is simple enough to prepare with ingredients on hand or found at your pharmacy, supermarket, farm-supply store, or favorite online retailer. Check out the recipes here and read on for ways to keep their armies from invading.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Boric acid
- Corn syrup
- Small bowl
- Spoon
- Waxed paper
- Sealed container
- Borax
- Powdered sugar
- Shortening
- Diatomaceous earth

Homemade Ant Trap - DIY Pest Removal

Photo: istockphoto.com

HOMEMADE ANT TRAP #1: Sweet and Deadly
Most ants are attracted to sweet stuff, so this recipe is sure to lure. In a small bowl, mix 1 teaspoon of boric acid (available over the counter at your local pharmacy) with 1/4 cup of corn syrup. Stir well to combine. Transfer a few drops of the mixture onto a small piece of waxed paper and place it where you’ve seen ant activity. Whatever ants find your bait will carry bits of the solution back to their colony. Then, you wait. Resist the temptation to kill the ants you see, as they need some time to carry the boric acid poison back to their buddies. Replace with fresh drops daily (storing unused bait at room temperature in a small sealed container for up to two weeks) and soon ants will be gone.

Note: While boric acid is considered to be of “low toxicity” to humans and animals, don’t take chances. Be safe and place this homemade ant trap and unused bait where pets and children cannot get to them.

HOMEMADE ANT TRAP #2: Shortening and Sugar
Because certain types of ants are drawn to greasy substances, the foolproof ingredient in this formula is shortening. In a small bowl or cup, mix 1 tablespoon of borax (a laundry booster related to boric acid, but milder) with 1 tablespoon of powdered sugar, and then blend in just enough shortening or lard to make the mixture crumbly (about a teaspoon).

Put crumbs of bait on pieces of waxed paper and place them near ant trails. Trails are invisible, so the way to identify them is to watch ants traveling in a straight line; early in an infestation, that unbroken line marks the trail of scent they leave for other ants. Replace crumbs daily (store leftover bait in a small sealed container or wrapped in plastic wrap at room temperature for up to two weeks), and ensure that traps and extra bait are out of reach of pets and children.

HOMEMADE ANT TRAP #3: Powdery and Natural
If you don’t have a full-blown infestation, and prefer a green method safe to sprinkle freely around kids and pets, use diatomaceous earth (DE). Though soft and powdery to the touch, the substance contains the ground-up fossils of aquatic organisms called diatoms, which on a microscopic level has sharp edges that cut into ant bodies. DE won’t wipe out a colony, but any ants that cross over the powder will dry out and perish. Purchase only food-grade DE (available at farm-supply stores and garden centers); do not use DE manufactured for swimming pool filters, because it contains added chemicals.

Sprinkle DE inside cabinets, on windowsills, around doors, and anywhere else you occasionally see ant activity. It will work indefinitely unless it gets wet. If using DE outdoors, reapply after rain.

 

REDUCE AND REPEL

After getting rid of an active infestation with a homemade ant trap, follow this two-part prevention program to make your home less attractive to the little buggers.

Reduce how attractive your abode is to the pests by:

• Cleaning countertops thoroughly after meals.
• Wiping up spills promptly.
• Taking garbage out of the house daily.

Repel nearby ants by:

• Putting a few drops of essential oil (try citrus, lemon, or eucalyptus) on a rag and wiping baseboards, windowsills, and exterior door casings.
• Sprinkling cayenne powder or garlic powder around doors and your home’s foundation.
• Placing a potpourri of dried mint leaves and clove buds on windowsills.


Weekend Projects: 5 Designs for a DIY Door

Transforming a basic set of door plans into a grand entrance—be it to the house or to the closet—takes less effort than you might imagine. Come right in and check out these inspiring do-it-yourself constructions.

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At its core, a door’s construction is mostly the same; learn to build one, and you can fashion as many as your home has doorways. The small details like color, texture, and hardware distinguish the designs: These can take a door design from suburban to rustic, traditional to modern, or subtle to bold. Whether you’re hoping to build a grand entrance to your home or covering a more private space like a bedroom closet, these five inventive ideas for how to build a door will open the metaphorical door to all of the possibilities for your next weekend project.

 

How to Build a Door - Screen Door from The DIY Dreamer

Photo: thediydreamer.com

STAR OF THE SCREEN
A screen door outside a front or back entrance is a must, especially in temperate climates where homes truly benefit from a passing breeze. Stuck without one for her own abode, The DIY Dreamer Christine and her crafty team of helpers measured, sketched out, cut, and assembled 1×6 and 1×8 lumber into a simple frame design to fit the front door. Molding hides where they secured the screen for a professional touch, and a cheerful coat of pistachio green sets the door apart from all the rest on her block.

 

How to Build a Door - Dutch Door from Just Beachy

Photo: chriskauffman.blogspot.ca

HALF AND HALF
If you share your home with children or pets, you likely know the value of a baby gate: It can be a lifesaver when you need need to keep an eye (or an ear) on your favorite small creatures from another space. A set of Dutch doors offers builds this function right into your door frame for an even more elegant solution. Rather than replace the existing door altogether, blogger Chris Kauffman of Just Beachy discovered how to work with what you’ve got. By cutting her door in two, lowering the doorknob to the bottom swinging portion, and installing a sliding latch to unify the pieces, overhauling her old door cost only $30 and the extra attention to detail.

 

How to Build a Door - Sliding Door from BobVila.com

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

SLIDING SCALE
Particularly perfect for homes where space is a commodity, sliding doors (also known as barn doors) create additional space for you to by freeing up the 90-degree “pie piece” that otherwise has to be kept clear in order for a hinged door to swing open. Fearless DIYer Ama of Ohoh Blog constructed this dark chocolate-colored door with sanded 8-foot lumber and door pulls, then hung it with hitch rings from a wall-mounted curtain rod. The rubber casters fastened to its bottom provides just the mobility to pull open or shut.

 

How to Build a Door - "Salvaged" Closet Door by Jenna Sue Design Co.

Photo: jennasuedesign.com

CHECK THE WEATHER
To punch up a cookie-cutter interior door with more color, texture, and personality, consider adding some character by reworking its facade. Here, Jenna Sue Design starts sprucing up what she calls the “cheap-o hollow core synthetic wood deal” that covers her coat closet using a cemented-on sheet of faux wood veneer. The depth created with vertical and horizontal plywood panels, a blend of stains, and a good sanding take the door the extra mile to a convincingly worn and weathered look. The resulting charm complements neutral farmhouse decor and the rest of the entryway’s shabby chic aesthetic.

 

How to Build a Door - Barn Door by Beneath My Heart

Photo: beneathmyheart.net

FROM BLAH TO BARN DOORS
Fed up with uninspired folding doors? That’s just the feeling that prompted this transformation from Traci of Beneath My Heart, whose ranch-turned-polished farmhouse was anything but average. She tore the closet’s eyesores from their track to switch to the swinging variety. Sheets of bead board, two pairs of gate hinges, and door pulls spray painted black to match make a starting set of plain-Jane hollow core doors simply unrecognizable.

 

DIY Projects Anyone Can Do

All of the Best Hands-on Tutorials from BobVila.com
Get the nitty-gritty details you need—and the jaw-dropping inspiration you want—from our collection of the favorite projects ever featured on BobVila.com. Whether your goal is to fix, tinker, build or make something better, your next adventure in DIY starts here.


How To: Make Weed Killer

No need to break your back pulling up ugly unwanted plants. Just try these safe, simple, and all-natural solutions!

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How to Make Weed Killer - to Clean Up Between Paver Cracks

Photo: istockphoto.com

You work hard at horticulture, so the last thing you want is gnarly weeds littering your lawn or popping up smack dab in the middle of your prized petunias. Weeds can even sneak into your driveway or sidewalk, becoming a tripping hazard as well as an eyesore. But there’s no need to spend your summer on hands and knees, yanking them out, or to resort to pricey chemical killers whose toxins can damage your property. Instead, follow any of these four easy, effective methods for making weed killer and attack those irksome interlopers ASAP. Just take care to not to douse nearby plants, because these equal-opportunity herbicides won’t discriminate between weeds and your landscaped lovelies.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Vinegar (white or cider)
- Dish soap
- Table salt
- Spray bottle
- Corn gluten meal
- Rubbing alcohol

How to Make Weed Killer - DIY Spray

Photo: istockphoto.com

Thrifty Triple Threat
They look harmless enough sitting on your kitchen counter, but vinegar, dish soap, and salt make a tenacious trifecta against weeds. Combine equals parts of these ingredients and pour into a spray bottle. Spritz your homemade weed killer unsparingly onto the stems and leaves of the undesirables in flower or vegetable beds during high sun, low wind conditions. (Avoid getting it on cement, which salt can discolor or even erode.) The dish soap will disintegrate the cuticle of the plant, allowing the salt and acetic acid in the vinegar to desiccate and destroy weeds.

Corn Meal Killer
Scattered over weed seeds, as opposed to mature weeds, corn gluten meal acts as a natural, non-toxic pre-emergent that can prevent germination. For optimal results, begin by tilling the soil in an established flower or vegetable bed to unearth weed seeds. Then, sprinkle the mighty maize directly over the seeds during a dry weather period. Steer clear of plots with recently sown flower or vegetable seeds as the corn gluten meal can stunt their growth along with the weed seeds.

Very Hot Stuff
Put the kettle on and boil some water, then take it outside (or fill a flask). Gently pour over the crown of pesky plants to scorch them in matter of days. Aim carefully, because the hot liquid can also burn surrounding plants—or your toes. While one application may be sufficient for weeds with short root structures, perennials with long taproots may require two to three applications before reaching their permanent demise.

Reliable Rubout
Dilute two tablespoons of rubbing alcohol in a bowl with four cups of water. Transfer the solution to a spray bottle and liberally coat the leaves of weeds in flower or vegetable plots, preferably on a sunny day. As the alcohol dries, it will wither the leaves and eventually kill uninvited vegetation.

 

Easy DIYs for Your Best-Ever Backyard

All of the Outdoor Design and DIY Tips from BobVila.com
With fair weather having arrived finally, it’s time to turn your home improvement efforts to the backyard and your deck, porch, or patio—the parts of the home built specifically to enjoy the extra hours of sunlight. Guided by these practical pointers and inspiring ideas, you can introduce beauty, comfort, and utility to your backyard and outdoor living areas, making them as inviting and enjoyable as your home interiors.