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Bob Vila Radio: Replace Your Roof Without Getting Ripped Off

Every homeowner is grateful to have a roof over their head—unless you're dealing with leaks and shedding shingles. Here's how to find a reliable roofer that will get it right the first time.


Worried your roof won’t make it through another season? If you spot sagging, raised shingles, and ceiling leaks, you might be right. Before you sign that contract, make sure you’re dealing with a reputable contractor.


Photo: istockphoto.com

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Listen to BOB VILA ON REPLACING YOUR ROOF or read the text below:

First, take a closer look at the estimates you’ve already received. How comprehensive are they? Steer clear of roofers that give you a list of bullet points with important details missing. A careful review takes time, but it can save you thousands of dollars—and loads of grief. Make sure you know exactly what materials the contractor plans to use, too. Second-rate supplies may seem more budget-friendly, but you’ll pay for it later with additional repairs or early replacement.

Don’t let your roofer talk you into nailing new shingles over the old ones. You’re better off inspecting the sheathing below and correcting any issues before moving forward. Finally, before you sign the contract, read it over so you understand any liabilities and warranties. If anything goes wrong on the job—or after the crew leaves—you’ll know exactly where you stand.

Bob Vila Radio is a 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day carried on more than 186 stations in 75 markets around the country. Click here to subscribe, so you can automatically receive each new episode as it arrives—absolutely free!

How To: Clean Quartz Countertops

Engineered quartz countertops rival the sophistication, design, and timeless appeal of real stone, minus the high maintenance. If you're lucky enough to have this luxurious material in your kitchen, read on for our complete guide to keeping it clean.

How to Clean Quartz Countertops

Photo: istockphoto.com

Quartz. Quartzite. The names sound alike. Yet, although both of these popular countertop materials are derived from the same mineral—quartz—and achieve a similar aesthetic when installed, they are not the same. Quartzite is formed when quartz-rich sandstone is exposed to high heat and pressure over time as a result of natural processes. It’s found all over the world and in a variety of patterns and colors. Engineered quartz, in contrast, is factory-produced by combining quartz with resins, binding agents, and occasionally pigments, depending on the manufacturer.

Thanks to the latest leaps in the aesthetics of man-made stone, today’s quartz genuinely reflects nature’s organic splendor, but with an important upgrade: Unlike natural quartzite, which must be sealed on a regular basis (twice a year, according to some experts), quartz does not require any sealing in order to resist stains, making it a very popular compromise. In fact, resin binders make the material nonporous, so mold, mildew, and stain- and odor-causing bacteria cannot penetrate the surface. Once it’s sealed, though, quartzite, the natural stone, can be cared for and maintained in the same way as its man-made counterpart. Follow these basic guidelines to keep either material sparkling like new for years to come.

- Mild dish detergent
- Soft cloth
- Glass cleaner
- Nonabrasive sponge
- Plastic putty knife
- Degreasing cleaner
- Goo Gone or comparable cleaner
- Trivet
- Cutting board


Though quartz will resist permanent staining when exposed to liquids like wine, vinegar, tea, lemon juice, and soda, or fruits and vegetables, it’s important to wipe up spills immediately—before they have a chance to dry. Take care of fresh messes with mild dishwashing detergent and a soft cloth. For dried spills or heavy stains, your best bet is a glass or surface cleaner, a nonabrasive sponge (sponges designed for nonstick pans are safe and effective), and a little elbow grease. Keep a plastic putty knife handy to gently scrape off gum, food, nail polish, paint, or other messes that harden as they dry.

How to Clean Quartz Countertops

Photo: istockphoto.com

Should you find yourself confronting a particularly sticky situation, your stain-busting might require a couple of extra tools.

• Remove cooking grease. If dinner was great but the counter took a beating, use a degreasing product that will first loosen then remove the grease from the surface. Follow the cleanser manufacturer’s instructions for use.

• Erase permanent markers. Permanent markers are supposed to be, well…permanent. When the kids get creative, make sure your counters are protected from their artistry by first putting down placemats or kraft paper, so the only thing they leave behind is a happy memory. Should you find an ink or permanent marker stain after craft time, moisten a cloth with Goo Gone or a comparable product, and rub it into the stain. Rinse thoroughly with warm water to remove any cleanser residue.



Daily wiping and attention to spills and messes will satisfy your countertop’s basic daily maintenance requirements. But experts also recommend an overall deeper general cleaning at regular intervals. For best results, spray a generous amount of a nonabrasive surface cleaner over your countertop and let it sit for 10 minutes. Wipe away with a non-scratch sponge.



When it comes to care and maintenance of quartz countertops, the dos are easy and straightforward: Wipe clean with a damp cloth. Use a mild nonabrasive detergent soap for deep cleaning. Simple, right? Preserving your counter’s integrity and appeal is more about adhering to the list of don’ts.

Abrasives and Acid or Alkaline Cleaners
For starters, never use abrasive cleansers and avoid scouring pads, which can dull the surface. Fortunately, soapy water will usually do the trick. If you need a gentle cleanser with a little more oomph to remove surface stains, make sure it is specifically designed for use on quartz.

Beware, too, of harsh cleaning solutions at both ends of the pH spectrum. Culprits include products from nail polish remover and turpentine to drain cleaner and dishwasher rinsing agents. Whether highly acidic or highly alkaline, those chemicals can disintegrate the bonds between quartz and resin. Quartz will tolerate casual exposure to milder alkaline solutions, such as diluted bleach, but high-pH substances, such as oven cleaners and concentrated bleach, will damage the surface. If any of the substances mentioned above come into contact with your quartz countertop, rinse the exposed surface immediately and thoroughly with water.

Extreme Heat
Trivets and hot pads are your quartz countertop’s best friends. Though the material is heat- and scorch-resistant, the resin used in manufacturing quartz countertops is a plastic and therefore prone to melting in heat above 300 degrees Fahrenheit. A sudden change in temperature or prolonged exposure to heat from a pan left on the countertop may even cause the quartz to crack. To be safe, always use a trivet or hot pad.

Slicing or Dicing Without a Cutting Board
Quartz is a hard surface, but not hard enough to withstand the effects of sharp objects like knives. So, slice and dice to your heart’s content, but make sure to do it on a cutting board to avoid ugly scratches on your quartz countertops.

The Elements
Quartz is not the right choice for an outdoor kitchen. If you install it outdoors, you do so at your own risk, as all manufacturer warranties cover indoor use only. Day after day in direct sunlight will fade colors and lead to warping or splitting.

Combining the best of authenticity and ingenuity, quartz is truly the rock of all ages. Be kind to your quartz countertops with regular attention and cleaning, and they will give you a lifetime of pleasure!


How to Clean Quartz Countertops

Photo: istockphoto.com

Solved! What to Do About a Sewage Smell in the Bathroom

Bathroom odors are a dime a dozen, but when you’ve got one that lingers for days, you should try for a DIY repair. Follow these steps to stamp out the sewer smell—and breathe easy.


Photo: istockphoto.com

Q: I’ve noticed a rotten smell coming from my bathroom lately and can’t figure out the source. Do you have any idea what could be causing this lingering odor and how I can get rid of it?

A: Sewer smells in your bathroom can result from a few different issues, so you’ll need to spend a bit of time in the room to sniff out the source. Once you’ve identified where the odor is coming from, the fix will probably be easy for you to tackle on your own. It’s smart of you to address the offensive odor sooner rather than later, though: In some cases, inhalation of high levels of sewer gas can lead to a host of health problems. Prolonged exposure to sewer gases can cause nausea, dizziness, and, in the case of hydrogen sulfide poisoning, even fatality, and extreme buildup can trigger an explosion. What’s more, airborne pathogens can creep in when the seal that keeps out sewer gases has been breached, leaving you vulnerable to sewer-dwelling germs. Before you start sniffing around, slip on a painter’s mask so you don’t breathe in toxic fumes, and then take things step by step.


Photo: istockphoto.com

First, check for clogs. This is the fastest problem to fix, because all you’ll need is a bottle of drain cleaner from the supermarket or hardware store. Pour it down the shower and sink drains to eliminate any gunk that may have built up in the pipes and caused the stink. Carefully follow the instructions on the packaging, and make sure you wait the requisite amount of time before you flush the drains with water. If the odor disappears after a day or two, then congrats! You’re good to go.

If the problem persists, look for leaks in your sink plumbing. Check for standing water on the floor or cabinet base beneath the U-shaped pipe (the P-trap) under the sink. Also, run your hand along the length of the pipe to detect any moisture. Dampness in either location is a sure sign of a leak.

Normally, a small amount of water collects inside the P-trap, even when it’s not in use, capturing sewer gases that would otherwise sneak up through the drain opening. But if the water in the P-trap dribbles out and leaves the interior of the pipe dry, those gases will escape and linger in the air. When that happens, it’s probably because the washers have corroded and created a small breach. If that’s the case, you should be able to replace them and reinforce your work with caulk or plumber’s tape to ensure a good seal.

Call in a pro for inspection. Unfortunately, if your drains are clear and your P-trap isn’t in need of repair, you’ll probably have to hire a plumber. It could be that there’s a broken wax ring where the toilet meets the floor—a situation that you can detect by observing how much water remains in the bowl between uses. If there isn’t sufficient water for a flush, you could very well have a leaky seal that has unsettled your commode and let sewer gas seep into the room—both unsanitary and unsafe. Alternatively, clogged or incorrectly installed vent pipes could be the culprits. These pipes conduct sewer gases out of your home, and fixing them would require specialized equipment and a trip up to the roof. If the vent pipes are involved, tracking down the source of the odor and remedying the problem is a job best left to a professional.

5 Even Easier Fixes for Household Problems—All in 1 Innovative Can

Finally, you can put the power of WD-40 to use in even the most awkward and annoyingly tight spaces, thanks to the long, flexible applicator of the product's new can.

WD-40 EZ-REACH Fixes Stuck Plumbing Joints Faster

Photo: wd40.com

An essential at job sites, in workshops, and on garage shelves for more than 60 years, WD-40® Multi-Use Product has earned the trust of do-it-yourselfers by solving hundreds of problems in both household and professional settings. It works to un-stick, un-gunk, and protect virtually any item that has moving parts. Yet, while its multitasking formula and short, stiff applicator consistently delivered positive results, success still required very precise aim on the DIYer’s part and often necessitated stooping, twisting, or reaching awkwardly around. The product’s latest packaging, however, makes the go-to fixit a whole lot easier to use on a wide variety of projects.

Fear not: The formula you’ve long relied on for repairs at home and at work remains the same. But now, the brand-new flexible straw on WD-40 EZ-REACH™ enables you to apply the tried-and-true solution in tight or inconvenient spots without having to twist yourself into a pretzel to get it where it needs to go. Using just two fingers, you can easily shape and reshape the eight-inch applicator into any angle, curve, or hook necessary to lubricate hard-to-reach cracks and crevices. The new straw can reach around corners, maneuver between staggered fan blades, and even arch over tall items to spray WD-40 exactly where you need it, providing greater precision with less time and effort than ever before. No more creaks. No more squeaks. No more frozen push buttons or pulleys. No more wasted product.

Stock up, and say goodbye to scraped knuckles! We’ve rounded up five handy ways that the new flexible applicator on WD-40 EZ-REACH™ can make daily DIY projects and repairs a cinch.


Use WD-40 EZ-REACH to Loosen Sink Plumbing

Photo: istockphoto.com

Loosen Under-Sink Plumbing Connections
No need to scoot about and twist yourself into knots under the sink just to fix a clogged trap. With a can of WD-40 EZ-REACH™ in your arsenal of tools, you can lubricate the entire circumference of a stuck galvanized or metal plumbing joint by contorting your spray nozzle, not yourself. Simply twist and reshape the metal flex straw to hook around the back and sides of the connections. Saturate the joint thoroughly and give it a few minutes to work its magic before using a pipe wrench or water pump pliers to twist the connections loose.


Use WD-40 EZ-REACH to Clean Mower Blades

Photo: istockphoto.com

Keep Mower Blades Clean and Sharp
Savvy homeowners and professional landscapers alike know that clean lawn-mower blades create sharper cuts than dull, gunked-up ones—and already entrust WD-40® with keeping their mower blades cleaner for longer amounts of time. They’ve seen for themselves how the go-to lubricant makes it easier for grass clippings to slide off rather than stick during the job. But tipping the mower on its side after each run to remove the blade and apply a coat of WD-40® isn’t easy. With WD-40 EZ-REACH™, however, you’ll spend less time underneath the machine because it’s so much easier to reach behind the blade. Just bend the flex straw upward to direct the spray toward the blade and the undercarriage to help keep grass from sticking and limit hard grass deposits.


Use WD-40 EZ-REACH to Repair Noisy HVAC Fans

Photo: istockphoto.com

Repair Noisy HVAC Fans
Shrill squeals every time the AC kicks on can drive you up the wall, especially when the ductwork carries that annoying sound throughout the house. With a little WD-40®, however, you can lubricate the HVAC blower fan assembly and achieve blissful peace and quiet. Before you tackle this repair, first turn off the breaker to the HVAC unit. Remove the cover from the squirrel cage fan, then bend the straw of the WD-40 EZ-REACH™ can to aim between the fins. Thanks to the straw’s pliable length, you’ll be able to easily and directly spray the shaft to help silence the squeaking.


Use WD-40 EZ-REACH to Preserve Garage Door Opener

Photo: istockphoto.com

Extend the Life of Your Garage Door Opener
Over time, corrosion causes garage door opener chains to bind, putting unnecessary stress on the motor—enough to potentially cut its life short. Spare yourself the inconvenience and expense of replacement by preserving your current machine with a yearly application of lubricant. With the garage door closed, climb a step stool or ladder and let the hooked straw of WD-40 EZ-REACH™ provide just the boost needed to spray the opener hinges, pulleys, and tracks. You’ll want to coat the entire length of the track, from the door to the opener. The lubricant will cut friction, and ultimately extend the life of your garage door opener.


Use WD-40 EZ-REACH to Lubricate Stuck Doors

Photo: istockphoto.com

Slide Closet Doors with Ease
You probably already reach for WD-40® when it’s time to silence a squeaky door hinge, but did you know that you can also ease the motion of a sliding closet door, thanks to the new and improved applicator on WD-40 EZ-REACH™? With the door in its open position, bend the straw to reach above the wheel assembly, which is tucked between the top of the door and the trim. Lubricate the bottom tracks at the same time. While you’re at it, carry the can over to any pocket doors to smooth out the movement along their tracks in the same manner.

Save yourself the hassle of any of these five home improvements by purchasing WD-40 EZ-REACH™ today.


This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of WD-40. The opinions and text are all mine.

Buyers’ Guide: Power Hedge Trimmers

Find the right tool to tame your shrubs and keep your landscape looking sharp.

Best Power Hedge Trimmers

Photo: istockphoto.com

The shape and tidiness of your shrubs is a crucial component of curb appeal. Whether you’ve got a densely landscaped plot with all manner of hedges and trees or a simple series of bushes lining the perimeter, regular upkeep is critical. Luckily, with today’s power trimmers it’s easy to groom that growth like a pro, saving you the cost of hiring a gardener. We’ve got the lowdown on the different types of tools and the most highly recommended models to help you pick the best hedge trimmer for your property’s needs.

Find your type. You’ve got two options: gas and electric. The one you choose will be based on how much power and portability you’re after.

• Gas-powered hedge trimmers. These tough tools, which generally require both oil and gas to run properly, tend to work harder than their electric counterparts. The downside to more power is weight: Gas hedge trimmers may be more than 10 pounds, making it a challenge to reach up and around tall shrubbery.

• Electric-powered hedge trimmers. While they don’t provide quite as much oomph as gas-juiced models, electric trimmers are usually lighter, making them easier to wield at chest height or higher. Lower-priced corded models offer uninterrupted use but less mobility because they’re plugged into an outlet—a problem for larger yards. Battery-powered trimmers mean total freedom of movement, though you must recharge or replace batteries regularly.

Choose a cut above the rest. Another factor to consider is how big of a branch the trimmer can tackle. Most slice through branches up to ½-inch thick, while more powerful models can usually handle up to an inch in diameter. Check the size of the gap between the blade’s teeth; the greater the gap, the higher the cutting capacity. A majority of trimmers have a gap between ⅜ to ¾ of an inch to manage common hedges cleanly.



So what really makes the cut? Here’s what reviewers—everyone from the experts who tested selections out in their laboratories to the consumers who have added these power landscaping tools to their collections—said about today’s top models.


Stihl  HSA 66 Hedge Trimmer

Photo: stihlusa.com

HSA 66 Stihl Lithium-Ion Hedge Trimmer ($220)
“This machine is a brute,” declared the no-nonsense team at Popular Mechanics, which ranked it best overall in a recent challenge. “It cuts with a vengeance, and it’s got incredible longevity. You’ll get tired before this trimmer will.” That may be due to its weight, since the HSA 66 clocks in at a decidedly hefty 8.7 pounds with an AP 100 battery—or 10.4 pounds, if you purchase the model with an AP 300 battery. With the extra weight comes as much muscle as a gas-powered trimmer: A 20-inch dual-sided blade cleanly cuts through shrubbery at 3,000 strokes per minute, and the 36-volt lithium-ion battery allows the machine to work with no added fuel costs, power cords, or exhaust emissions. Thanks to an energy-efficient design, the Stihl HSA 66 has an impressive run time, never slowing down until you completely deplete the power. The hedge trimmer retails for around $220, depending on the dealer. Note that the battery and charger are sold separately. Available at authorized Stihl dealers.


Echo SHC 225S Hedge Trimmer

Photo: homedepot.com

Echo SHC 225S Gas Hedge Trimmer ($359)
Earning high marks from Home Depot shoppers, this ruthless gas-powered trimmer boasts a 20-inch shaft and double-sided, double-reciprocating razor-edge blades. The high-capacity 21.2 cc power boost vortex engine can easily conquer large hedge growth, with a maximum cut diameter of 0.5 inches. This trimmer also boasts a 1-inch blade length and fuel tank capacity of 14.9 oz. Features like hand grips and vibration control create added comfort, which almost makes up for the trimmer’s heavy weight of 13.7 pounds. Available at The Home Depot.


Black & Decker Hedge Trimmer

Photo: lowes.com

Black & Decker TR117 Corded Electric Hedge Trimmer ($35)
For a reliable budget option, consider this runaway favorite of Lowe’s customers, which earned an almost-perfect 4.5-star average from more than one hundred users. The corded electric trimmer spans 17 inches in length and tackles branches up to ⅝ inches thick. Its 3.2 amp motor stands up to moderate jobs, with the help of a rust-resistant and dual-action stainless steel blade that remains sharp for an extended length of time. Additional features include a lock-off switch (so you don’t need to worry about accidentally starting the engine) and cord retention. The trimmer’s light weight of 4.3 pounds makes it a breeze to pilot around bushes, and the compact design gives off minimal vibration. Priced under $50, this trimmer is both cost-effective and efficient. Available at Lowe’s.


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.

Weekend Projects: 6 Designs for DIY Garden Furniture

Why shell out serious cash on outdoor garden items when you can make them yourself? Check out these six DIY furniture ideas to create a one-of-a-kind space surrounding your plant beds.


With the right furniture, you can turn your garden into an outdoor reprieve for rest and relaxation. But, unfortunately, the weather-proof options don’t always come cheap. That’s why we pulled together six DIY garden furniture designs—building your own outdoor furnishings allows for total customization without emptying your wallet. Whether you’re looking for a place to put your feet up after hours of labor or a table to keep you organized while you get your hands dirty, there’s sure to be a handmade option that will meet your gardening needs.



DIY Rope Ottoman

Photo: stylemepretty.com

You don’t need a store-bought ottoman to add functionality to your patio. Try making your own by following this clever project from Style Me Pretty—all you need is a spare tire, two types of rope (nylon and sisal), and a hot glue gun. Start by wrapping the nylon rope around the sides of the tire, then hot gluing the sisal rope in a circular pattern on top. You can paint the whole thing with a light coat of sealer so that it survives during rainstorms.



DIY Potting Bench

Photo: refreshrestyle.com

Gardening is a lot easier when you have a dedicated set-up that’s just for re-potting blooms. This two-shelf table from Refresh ReStyle can be constructed to store your trowels and pots beneath the area where you’ll work. When you’ve wrapped up construction, give the table a rustic look with a stain of your choice. The entire project will take the length of an afternoon—and just $15 out of pocket. Not bad!



DIY Patio Chair

Photo: howtospecialist.com

To build a backyard chair that’s both comfy and sturdy following this design idea from the How To Specialist, you’ll want to invest in heavy-duty lumber and plywood. The key to this construction is making exact measurements upfront, then doubling up in terms of fasteners: Use both a waterproof glue and a power drill to attach each carefully cut 2×4 together. An exterior wood stain would ensure that your hard work doesn’t succumb to water damage. Then, repeat the process to make a pair for your yard.



DIY Outdoor Bench

Photo: bobvila.com

When it comes to garden furniture, the flexibility provided by a bench that seats anywhere from one to three people is always best. This original design from BobVila.com incorporates a variety of lumber in different sizes—2×2s, 1×2s, 1×3s, and 1×5s—to build an interesting striped design right into a sturdy frame, each width of slat highlighted in a different finish for emphasis. Thanks to two protective coats of varnish, the result is a weathered-looking bench that can be kept outdoors year-round.



DIY Sofa Bench

Photo: funkyjunkinteriors.net

A robust selection of leftover wood and screws are all it takes to assemble this one-of-a-kind outdoor seating option. Building a solid frame that doesn’t sag or get warped over time requires plenty of center supports, but Funky Junk Interiors‘ step-by-step makes this DIY garden furniture look doable. Also, a pro tip from the handy blogger who dreamed up the design: Find the mattress first before diving into the woodworking, since the soon-to-be seat cushion will dictate the size of the furniture’s frame.



DIY Bistro Table

Photo: theshabbycreekcottage.com

Rather than searching for the perfect “table for two” to match your garden aesthetic, follow this tutorial from The Shabby Creek Cottage and make your own—to the tune of $15. The only lumber you’ll need to pick up is a handful of humble 2×4s, which the DIY blogger then advises cutting with a power saw into the variety of pieces that make up this garden classic. Sanded down and assembled with a power drill, the wooden bistro table only needs a fresh coat of paint to provide a pop of color in your backyard hangout.

So, You Want to… Install a Zoned Comfort Solution

Get precise control of the temperature in every room of your home with an energy-efficient and whisper-quiet cooling and heating system from Mitsubishi Electric.


Photo: mitsubishicomfort.com

It’s strange: We hold our dishwashers, ovens and other household appliances to an extremely high standard, but not our cooling and heating systems. Many homeowners tolerate lackluster performance that consumes energy and drives up utility bills. The explanation may be that over the past 50 years or so, one particular climate-control technology has dominated the market, and many folks are unaware that alternatives exist. Today, with so many advances in technology, homeowners can choose from a variety of compelling options to ensure year-round comfort. Among the most intriguing is the Zoned Comfort Solution™ from longtime industry leader Mitsubishi Electric. Departing from conventional technology, the zoning systems deliver highly customizable climate control with unparalleled efficiency that results in low operating costs. Though already widely popular in Europe and Asia, the Mitsubishi Electric system is just catching on here at home. So the real question is: Is this system right for your home? Read on for some key points to bear in mind.



Photo: mitsubishicomfort.com

Some people choose Zoned Comfort Solutions to provide supplemental climate control to one room in their home. More common is using these systems to cool and heat the entire home. How does the Mitsubishi Electric system manage to be so versatile? In large part, it’s that the unique, streamlined design of the system enables it to scale up and down with ease. The simplest application consists of only two discrete components—an outdoor compressor-condenser (the outdoor unit) and an indoor evaporator (the indoor unit), with a single outdoor unit capable of supporting multiple indoor units. The result is you can have many indoor units as part of just one cooling and heating system. Those units can be any style you like—the style that gets mounted high up on a wall, the one that gets concealed behind a wall or ceiling and so on. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach. The right combination depends entirely on you—your needs and your preferences. No matter how you envision Zoned Comfort Solutions serving your home, you can expect the installation to involve a minimal amount of remodeling work. In fact, depending on the scope of the project, technicians may be able to complete the work in just one day.



Photo: mitsubishicomfort.com

With no sacrifice of performance, the Zoned Comfort Solutions operate with remarkable, stand-out energy efficiency. Simply put, in comparison with older, increasingly outmoded systems, Mitsubishi Electric technology uses noticeably less electricity to power its normal operation. The key: A traditional forced-air system operates in a stop-and-start cyclical pattern that consumes a great deal of energy. Conversely, a Mitsubishi Electric system minimizes energy consumption by running continuously. That doesn’t mean that the system operates continuously at full capacity, rather, it monitors each zone’s temperature and modulates its output to match the demand of a room at any given time. If that doesn’t sound like a groundbreaking innovation, consider that Zoned Comfort Solutions can save you as much as 40 percent on cooling and heating (an expense that, in average homes, accounts for about half of total energy consumption). Those savings really add up, especially over the long term, putting to rest the assumption that with cooling and heating you can enjoy comfort or savings, but you can’t have both.



Photo: mitsubishicomfort.com

Perhaps the most exciting aspect of Mitsubishi Electric systems is that the technology affords an exceptional degree of control. Namely, it enables you to target temperatures on a room-by-room basis. Contrast that with homes that have a traditional forced-air system where a single thermostat sets the temperature for the entire house. The frustration with such a setup has always been that in order to make one room cooler or warmer, you need to raise or lower the temperature for every room, all at once. This includes rooms that are unoccupied—the guest bedroom, the formal dining room and so on. Besides wasting a considerable amount of energy that the homeowner has to pay for at the end of the month, a single-thermostat system fails to recognize different members of your household may prefer different temperatures. With zoned systems, everyone under the same roof can be comfortable at the same time. If you like it a bit cooler, you can turn down the thermostat in the zones where you spend the most time. If your children like it warmer, you can set the temperature for their bedrooms accordingly. And if you’re all in the living room, no need to waste electricity cooling unoccupied spaces. Isn’t that the way it should be?



Photo: mitsubishicomfort.com

Historically, cooling and heating manufacturers have focused mainly on performance and less on aesthetics. Mitsubishi Electric sets itself apart: With their Zoned Comfort Solutions, you can choose from a range of indoor units, each with its own look. For multifunctional living spaces common to contemporary floor plans, many homeowners opt for a wall-mounted unit that, as its name suggests, mounts on the wall, often several feet above eye level. Even less conspicuous are the units that recess into the ceiling, or if enough space is available, into the floor or soffit. With their working parts fully concealed and only their air distribution vents visible, recessed units easily escape notice—a feature enhanced by their whisper-quiet operation. For an even more sophisticated option, look to the Designer Series, a new line of indoor units that goes further to prove that climate control need not conflict with home decor. Available in three colors (glossy black, pearl white and matte silver), the sleek and slim Designer Series hugs the wall, protruding mere inches into the living space. Homeowners can stick with one design or choose a different one for each room. The options are endless.


Mitsubishi Electric’s Zoned Comfort Solutions takes a fresh approach to cooling and heating—one that may forever change your mind about the meaning of, and possibilities for, home comfort. In the past, homeowners who were unaware of alternatives accepted the drawbacks of bulky, cumbersome and inflexible climate-control systems that offered hit-and-miss, energy-wasting performance. Today, thanks to innovative systems from Mitsubishi Electric, homeowners can enjoy better-than-ever climate control, probably for less money than they’re currently spending. Ready to take the first step? Go online now to MitsubishiComfort.com to locate a Diamond Contractor™ in your area. Trained and certified by Mitsubishi Electric, Diamond Contractors are always on hand to offer expert advice on integrating Zoned Comfort Solutions into your home, no matter its age, size or style. Compact, efficient and versatile, cooling and heating isn’t what it used to be—and that’s a good thing!

Photo: mitsubishicomfort.com

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

How To: Remove Rust from Stainless Steel

Don’t let rust run rampant in your house. Fight the intrusive tarnish with these surefire methods, and your countertops and appliances will soon glisten once again.

How to Remove Rust from Stainless Steel

Photo: istockphoto.com

At its best, a kitchen furnished with shiny stainless steel appliances and surfaces is practically the picture of pristine—and professional. But when the thick, seemingly impenetrable metal making up your kitchen sink, counters, and pots and pans begins to rust, the expensive aesthetic looks worse than if actually damaged. Homeowners dealing with these blemishes may ask, Isn’t stainless steel supposed to be, well, stainless? Though its name is somewhat misleading, any appliance made up of the chromium-based metal can easily corrode if not properly cared for. Luckily, there’s no need to panic! If you’re one of the myriad of individuals who have accidentally left utensils or frying pans soaking in the kitchen sink longer than you care to admit, don’t throw in the towel on removing unsightly surface stains just yet. In fact, the solutions—yes, there are a few—are so simple that they’re probably staring you right in the face if you happen to be in the kitchen. Read on for how to remove rust from stainless steel all throughout the kitchen and home.

How to Remove Rust from Stainless Steel

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Solution #1: Simply Baking Soda

- Baking soda
- Water
- Soft cloth
- Soft bristle brush
- Paper towels

For small rust spots…
STEP 1: When removing only a few unseemly spots from the side of a pan or the front of your dishwasher, mix a paste from 1 tablespoon of baking soda and 2 cups of water. (For larger rust spots, skip ahead to the next set of steps.) Baking soda is a very mild abrasive, so you can rest easy knowing that you’re conquering corrosion in a completely chemical-free way that won’t scratch up your stainless steel.

STEP 2: Rub the paste onto your stainless steel surface in the direction of the grain using a soft, clean cloth.

STEP 3: Finally, rinse and gently wipe the affected area with a damp paper towel.

For larger areas showing signs of rust…
STEP 1: Rinse the larger surface area—be it the basin of your sink or a section of your stainless steel counters—thoroughly to remove any debris and dampen the surface. Immediately after, sprinkle a layer of baking soda over it, making sure to coat the entire rusted region.

STEP 2: Let the layer of baking soda sit for between 30 minutes and an hour.

STEP 3: Roll up those sleeves and start scrubbing! You can scrub with a soft bristle brush, or—if you’re fresh out of cleaning brushes—use an old toothbrush that you may have saved for these sort of cleaning purposes.

STEP 4: Rinse and carefully dry with a paper towel.


Method #2: A Stronger Solution

If you’ve ever left cast iron pots in the sink while wet, it is likely you’ve woken up to the menacing sight of rust decorating a once perfectly varnished stainless steel sink. A forgivable gaffe, indeed. But how to treat it? You may wish to bump up your cleaning ammo by employing a cleaner containing oxalic acid. It’s true, not all stainless steel behaves the same way. So when a baking soda bath does not do the job to your satisfaction, oxalic acid-based cleaners offer a very effective alternative method for dissolving rust and cleaning stains.

- Cleaner that contains oxalic acid
- Soft sponge

STEP 1: Apply a generous amount of cleaner containing oxalic acid onto the affected area, following the package’s instructions. The appliance manufacturer General Electric recommends Bar Keeper’s Friend Soft Cleanser (a liquid cleanser free of grit), which you can pick up for less than $10 at your nearest big-box home improvement store. Revere Ware Copper and Stainless Steel Cleaner/Polish and Kleen King Stainless Steel and Copper Cleaner are two more highly effective, rust-busting cleaners containing this key ingredient; you can find them at your local grocery store. Avoid using any caustic cleaners that contain chlorides, as the abrasive nature of these products will only further damage the steel’s chromium film (the protective layer).

STEP 2: Once set, rub the cleaner in the direction of the metal grain lines using a soft, slightly damp sponge. Again, a little elbow grease is required here, but well worth it for the sparkling finish that awaits you!

STEP 3: Finally, rinse clean with fresh water and gently towel dry.


How to Remove Rust from Stainless Steel

Photo: istockphoto.com

Best (and Worst) Practices for Rust Removal

Whatever you choose to do to remove rust, stay far away from steel wool, steel brushes, or any cleaner that contains fluorine, chlorine, bromine, and iodine (to name but a few elements in the chloride family). Remember, chlorides are so abrasive that they’ll mar the “stainless” surface, making it susceptible to corrosion. As well, harsher cleaners and scrubbing pads like steel wool can cause damaging scratches—or worse, leave a pesky remainder of particles that can lead to yet another unpleasant rust encounter.

Of course, in order to avoid rust in the future, it’s best to minimize moisture around any stainless steel appliance. Refrigerators are particularly vulnerable if you live in coastal areas with salt-laden air—or if you happen to share the kitchen with those with small, impatient fingers that tend to spill liquids into the nooks and crannies of your fridge! So, if you happen to spot a splash or spill, don’t tell yourself you’ll get to it later—grab a mop or an absorbent paper towel and get to work. Your gleaming stainless steel-enhanced kitchen will thank you later.

For everyday upkeep—and to maintain that glowing luster throughout your kitchen—wipe away smudges and fingerprints regularly with warm water with a mild soap or dish detergent. Then give these stainless steel surfaces a quick rinse with cloth dampened with fresh water, and don’t skimp on the drying! Remove standing water or leftover droplets with another clean cloth, and you can eliminate moisture before it starts the problematic cycle all over.


Cleaning Tips for a Spotless Home

All of the Essential Cleaning Advice from BobVila.com
There’s no way around it: Keeping the house clean demands your time, your energy, and even some of your money. Fortunately, this arsenal of cleaning tips can help you finish the housekeeping more quickly—and with fewer commercially sold products.

Meet the Cost-Effective and Customizable Alternative to Central AC

Are you ready for the hot times ahead? This year, beat the heat and keep your home cool all summer long with a versatile, unobtrusive system that doesn't require bulky ductwork—or the extensive renovation it typically entails.


Photo: fujitsugeneral.com

Summer never fails to usher in higher temperatures. And, unfortunately for the typical homeowner, the season also tends to bring higher energy bills. After all, homeowners across the country rely on air conditioning to maintain a comfortable indoor environment, and as conventional cooling options are infamous energy hogs, their operation usually incurs a considerable cost. Year in, year out, you may face a familiar, frustrating choice: Unable to have both at once, you must trade comfort for savings, or savings for comfort.

Only one innovative technology enables homeowners to enjoy both. Mini-split systems from leaders like Fujitsu General minimize energy consumption and running costs without sacrificing performance. Whereas older, increasingly outmoded systems typically score Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) ratings between 4 and 10, the Fujitsu mini-split operates at a jaw-dropping 33 SEER. Indeed, many Fujitsu mini-splits are certified by Energy Star for their ability to deliver cooling at a savings of up to 25 percent over less efficient systems.

Photo: fujitsugeneral.com

Another reason for the growing popularity of mini-splits—easy installation. Traditional central air can be challenging to retrofit or extend, in large part because it depends on elaborate networks of ducts. Mini-split systems, by contrast, can be completely ductless, if desired. For this reason, they are often much more compact, taking up only a fraction of the space ducted systems occupy. Because they’re so compact, mini-splits lend themselves to unobtrusive installation that entails neither the hassle nor expense of remodeling.

A basic mini-split consists of nothing more than an outdoor condenser and an indoor unit. (Here, in contrast with traditional AC, there’s no need to make room in the basement or attic for an evaporator.) Thin copper tubes, narrow enough to fit through a discreet, three- to four-inch opening in the home exterior, run between the condenser and indoor unit. Those tubes carry refrigerant from the outdoor unit to the indoor unit, so it can distribute conditioned air into the space.

A single outdoor condenser can power multiple indoor units. With Fujitsu, in fact, a single condenser can run as many as eight indoor units positioned throughout the home. To help homeowners incorporate all those indoor units discreetly, manufacturers like Fujitsu offer a range of designs. Wall-mounted units install above eye level, while floor-mounted units work best in rooms with minimal wall space, such as kitchens. Slim-duct units, yet another option, can be recessed into the ceiling, where they remain virtually hidden.

Want even more evidence of mini-splits’ versatility? Look no further than their ability to target temperatures on a room-by-room basis. With traditional central air, if you want to cool any room, you must cool all rooms. Besides being unnecessarily expensive, all-or-nothing cooling ignores the fact that different family members often prefer different temperatures. With a mini-split, you can not only save by cutting back on cooling in rarely used rooms, but you can also put a stop to feuds over the thermostat setting.

Perhaps best of all, homeowners can depend on mini-split systems for comfort, not only in summer, but in each and every season, year-round. Take the Fujitsu Halcyon, for example. Here, the push of a button switches the system from cooling to heating mode. In cooling mode, the condenser draws heat from inside the home and expels it outdoors. In heating mode, the operation reverses, harvesting heat from the outdoor air and channeling it indoors.

More attractive than window units, more compact than central air-conditioning systems, and more efficient than either one, mini-splits offer a compelling climate-control alternative that, while already popular in Europe and Asia, hasn’t yet gone mainstream here at home. That’s all changing, though, as more and more homeowners discover the features and benefits of versatile mini-splits. Ready to take the next step? To find a Fujitsu General contractor near you, call 888-888-3424 or go online right now to visit www.constantcomfort.com.

Photo: fujitsugeneral.com

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

All You Need to Know About Slate Floors

Weigh these important considerations before shelling out for this favorite flooring material.

All You Need to Know About Slate Floors

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Natural texture, super strength, stain resistance, and blend of vibrant hues are all reasons that slate tile—the thin, uniform-cut sheets of metamorphic rock—ranks high on the wish list of flooring choices. But as far as a rigid flooring product goes, this sought-after material isn’t suitable for all homes. If you’re considering installing slate floors in the kitchen, bath, mudroom, or patio, first consult our guide so that you have a better idea of what to expect out of the material.

Known primarily for its charcoal hue and grooved texture, selecting slate for your interior or exterior flooring opens a much wider variety of choices in terms of shade and pattern. This stone boasts texture in both coloring—which can include mixtures grays, tans, rusty browns, olive greens, and even specks of purple and cyan—as well as contouring. You can keep it more natural by embracing the physical texture (and enjoy the added bonus of some slip resistance), or opt for slate tiles that have been sanded smooth. No matter your preference, all variations on the earthy material effectively bring the outdoors in wherever homeowners choose to incorporate the stone.

Their creation also contributes to the strength of the surfaces. Forged from natural minerals like quartz and calcite in extreme heat, slate is an extremely durable and solid surface that withstands everyday wear and tear. If you do accidentally drop something heavy and chip the floor, you won’t see quite a contrasting color difference as you would with ceramic or porcelain tile. One caveat: Slate is slightly softer than some other stones, so it scratches relatively easily. This makes it an unsuitable choice for floors subject to heavy abuse, like those within a garage or warehouse. However, slate remains a great choice for kitchens and bathrooms.

All You Need to Know About Slate Floors

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Like other natural stone flooring, mined slate is a costly investment to purchase and install within the home. Experienced do-it-yourselfers can save a substantial amount of money by forgoing a call to the professionals and laying the floor on their own, leaving the bulk of the budget for the cost of materials themselves. These stone tiles range in price depending on how much effort was required to quarry, from around $2 per square foot (stone mined closer to the earth’s surface, and therefore easier to acquire) to as much as $10 per square foot (often a higher-end stone that is mined underground)—still a fair amount less than the price for marble or granite flooring.

If you do choose professional installation, know that the materials are the least expensive part of the cost of your new slate floors. The cost of labor typically runs two or three times the price of the tile, because the contractor has to prepare the substrate in multiple layers. Thoughtful patterns in the tiled floor will also increase the bill.

Before you commit to slate tile, take a closer look at your floor system to be sure it is adequate to handle the new flooring. Slate is both heavy and brittle, so sponginess or bounce in your existing floor could result in cracked or popped tiles—not at all what you want to see in such a big investment.

Your floor system, which consists of the framing and the subfloor, must be structurally sound and rigid enough to support the heavy weight of the slate tile. Both stick-framed and manufactured floor systems might require reinforcement and/or stronger underlayment before you can install slate tile. To be on the safe side, have an engineer or the inspector for your local building authority, assess your floor system and make recommendations, if necessary, for beefing it up before installing tile.

As mentioned earlier, installing rigid slate floors is a pricey professional job because it’s an involved process—this challenge may not be for the faint of heart. Should you choose to install the floor yourself, be sure to stock basic carpenter hand and power tools in addition to some specialty tools, such as cement board clippers and diamond blade for your circular saw. A wet tile saw will make cutting the slate simpler and far less dusty. You may also wish to buy or rent a hand-held oscillating saw for undercutting the bottoms of doorjambs and casings so you can slide the tiles beneath rather than having to notch around them.

Your slate floor will be only as good as the substrate beneath, which must be rock-solid. Five individual layers are necessary for a structurally sound slate floor. From the bottom, the layers consist of: the subfloor, thin-set mortar, cement backer board, another layer of thin-set mortar, the top layer of slate tile. Installed correctly, the substrate is optimal and the floor will last for many years.

Grouting between slate tiles on the top-most layer is generally completed after the thin-set mortar sets. Since slate is slightly porous, it’s a good idea to apply a penetrating stone sealant to the tiles before grouting. Otherwise, bits of grout that get on the tile in the next steps could be very difficult to remove and mar your otherwise sophisticated surface.


All You Need to Know About Slate Floors

Photo: istockphoto.com

Overall, homeowners who choose slate will be happy to know that this high-style flooring material is relatively low maintenance. Though the dark and textured surface won’t quickly reveal tracked-in grime, a quick daily sweeping with either a broom or dry mop will eliminate its most damaging culprit: dust and dirt. Left to collect for weeks at a time, these particles might scratch the soft stone.

Beyond the five-minute sweep on a daily basis, you’ll want to schedule a deeper clean every few months. Simply mopping up slate floors with a sudsy mixture of warm water and mild dish detergent, a neutral pH floor cleaner, or a solution designed specifically for use on stone and tile should prevent any oily build-up from exposure to kitchen grease or bare feet. And make short work of any spills by resealing twice a year: Keeping in mind that this surface material is indeed slightly porous, mop or roll on a good slate sealer in order to prevent spills from seeping into the stone and staining.