Monthly archive - September 2012

Be Yourself With A New, Personalized Backsplash

Be Yourself With A New, Personalized Backsplash

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Kitchen renovations are expensive, obviously, but that doesn’t mean that one’s kitchen has to remain a dull workspace for home cooking. A very popular way to give a kick of color and personality to a kitchen is installing a new kitchen backsplash with some personally chosen tiles. And whether you currently have a backsplash or merely painted drywall in your kitchen, the job is, as it turns out, relatively easy from a DIY standpoint, though removing old backsplash can get a bit messy to say the least.

In the case of painted drywall, you can start by sanding the area to rough up the surface for installation. If you already have a tile backsplash, however, you need to get rid of it completely, which tends to involve cutting out and getting rid of both the drywall and the attached tiles before putting the new backer board onto the studs; cement backer is best but green drywall is ultimately almost as good.

Now, its measuring time! You’ll need to get the length of the backsplash and measure the distance from the top of your counter to the bottom of your top cabinets to calculate what will be your tiled area. Now, this is where you begin to have fun. Use graph paper and draw a scale outline to see how you’ll want to set-up your tile pattern. 4 x 4, 6 x 6 or 3 x 4 subway tiles tend to be the favored types but using 1 x 1 tiles attached to a back mesh has become just as popular over the years. Calculate your tile quantities from there but be sure to tack on 10-15% for cutting and wastage and be sure that you’re using glazed tiles.

So, when you get back from the Home Depot or local hardware store, it’s time to install. First, remove the stove or range hood, outlet or switch cover plates, and anything else that will be in the way of a precise tiling job. (Also, be sure to turn of the electricity to that particular area!) If you need to, install the backer board first by using galvanized drywall screws. A 1/8″ gap between the edges is a solid distance when installing the boards. Use mesh wire and filler to cover. In case of any gaps (ex. the range area), use a temporary ledger board along the base of your tile line to help hold your tiles in place. Find, mark and draw a visible startling line with a level at the central focal point of your design. This is to line up your tiles vertically in the correct way.

It’s best to lay your tiles out somewhere open, just to have the design set in your head, and then get ready to place the tiles. From the center, begin with the bottom row. You will need tile mastic or thin-set mortar to set the tiles. Add a little of either to a small section of the wall using a trowel, preferably grooved. Put the edge of the first tile on the starting line you made and remember to leave a 1/8″ gap on the bottom for caulking. Press the first tile into place, then put in a temporary 1/8″ spacer vertically and continue on like this.

At one point, you will likely have to cut a tile to fit certain areas and for this, you will need a scoring cutter, which can be rented or purchased. Mark on the tile where you will need to cut before putting the tile in the tool and scoring said mark on the surface. Used properly, the cutter will break the tile along the scored line. In the case of an electrical outlet, you may be need to cut two tiles and then use tile nippers to cut out the opening and put them on each side of the outlet. After the tiles are in place, apply a mixed sandless grout with a rubber float. Make sure to push it down into the gaps between the tiles and remove any excess grout. Then, just let it set for about an hour or so.

Use and regularly rinse wet sponges for the cleanup and it doesn’t hurt to employ a clean dry cloth to give the tiles a good buff and shine. 
Your electrical outlets will likely need box extenders before you place the cover plates back on and then, finally, apply caulk, preferably the same color as your chosen grout, all along the bottom seam where the backsplash meets the countertop. With this, your kitchen should not only be a workspace but will emanate the feeling of a distinct place for friends and family to take a moment and share a story or take a peak at what you’re preparing.


Correct Composting for Caring Gardeners

Correct Composting for Caring Gardeners

There are many facets to living Green that, at first glance, seem a little annoying or even outright preposterous. Why exactly should I pay substantially more for a light bulb that looks like a curly fry if my neighbor is already doing it? Is it really that important that I resize all my doors and windows, and install bamboo instead of hardwood floors? Well, the light bulbs are, at the end of the day, easy to replace and last longer, so it’s worth it in the long run. As for the bamboo and the house-wide resizing, they really are for the best but aren’t urgent and do require some planning.

In between these two ends of the Green-living spectrum lies the relatively simple act of composting, which, despite its reputation as an activity solely for those with dreadlocks and more than one piece of Phish merchandise, is a hugely beneficial practice that takes very little time to enact and keep up. For gardening enthusiasts and anyone even remotely interested in sustainable living, it should be a no-brainer. Oh, and did I mention it’s incredibly simple?

So, what is a compost pile? To put it simply, it’s waste, piled on top of waste, for the purpose of making the waste usable. Most of this is natural waste: dead leaves, branches, twigs, grass clippings, fruit scraps, old vegetables, vegetable waste and, lastly, coffee grounds. The committed composter maintains a healthy, even balance between the “brown” (leaves, branches, twigs) and the “green” (everything else), and regularly waters the pile.  This makes an ideal mixture of carbon and nitrogen, which are the major elements in compost.

Keeping up an ideal level may not be easy for most people, but as in most things, one need not be ideal in practice to see results. Set your compost pile or bin in a dry, shady spot in your backyard. Place it as close to a water supply as possible, as you will want to moisten the materials as you add them; it’s even suggested that you place a tarp over the pile or bin to ensure the mix will remain moist.

Whenever adding new materials, try to break down larger pieces into much smaller material, through shredding or other means; this will help ensure healthy, regular breakdown throughout the pile. And, if possible, the top of the pile should be mostly “brown” material. Mix the material regularly, either with a pitchfork, a shovel or even your hands and make sure to put fruit waste about a foot beneath the top of the pile, as well as grass clippings. Mixing should occur about 3-4 times a month to distribute air and moisture.

The bad news is that compost can take up to 18 months to reach its desired state, but this is only in rare cases. Most of the time, if you tend to it correctly, the process of composting should be ready in 2-6 months. When the bottom of the pile is a dark, damp color, you’re ready to use your compost, whether it be for agriculture, horticulture or even to lessen the impact of erosion on topsoil. There are various things that should not be put into compost (diseased plants, pet waste, lawn waste treated with pesticides recently) and a little research will provide a longer list of these things to watch out for. But even with stipulations, the act of composting offers several beneficial results, not the least of which is healthy soil for gardening, regular, if minor exercise and a simple way to help the earth with little to no damage done to your wallet.


Light Fixtures to Light Up Your Life

Light Fixtures to Light Up Your Life

Being a rather huge movie buff, the importance of lighting has always been something I’ve taken an interest in, especially in homes. The type of light fixtures you put in each of your rooms is integral to the mood of that room and the overall personality (and style) of your home. Whether it happens to be recessed, chandelier, wall sconces, pendant, or soffit, it says something about what use you want to get out of the room and what atmosphere you want it to capture. And, like most things, both of these facets can change rather quickly, so if you’re looking to get more ambitious with your DIY home repairs, it’s a good starting place for electrical work.

For tools, you merely need the new light fixture, wire cutters, a flathead screwdriver and something to stand on (depending on where they are placed and/or your height). Get to your power supply and shut down power to that part of the house, as to ensure no one gets zapped or worse. If there are decorative glass covers surrounding the light bulbs, remove them along with the light bulbs and only then unscrew the old fixture – there should be easy-to-spot screws holding it to the wall and the electrical box. In some cases – it’s more common in older fixtures – you will also have to unscrew mounting brackets that are helping to hold the fixture in place.

Take special care to notice how the wires are connected to your old fixture: they will like be either connected with the screws on the existing fixture or there will be wires coming out of the fixture that are directly connected to the wires in the electrical box. Have a pen and paper handy to write things like this down and when you disconnect the wires, also note color or size of the wires so you can easily attach the new fixture.

Once you have the information down and your old fixture has been set aside (or has found its new home in the garbage can), it’s time to connect the new fixture. If it connects with the screw, the black screw should go with the brass screw while the white screw should be connected to the silver screw; the ground wire (green or copper) will connect to final screw, which is usually colored green. As for direct wire connections, use the wire nuts provided with your fixture and just connect colors correspondingly (black to black etc.). Screws will be provided with the fixture to mount the new fixture in the designated spot and then all you have to do is flip on the power to test.

If there’s a problem, or if electrical work is (understandably) the one area of home improvement you’d rather leave to the professionals, it’s best to find a trusted electrician to check it out/do the work. Otherwise, this should make it easier if you ever want to change the lighting in your living/entertainment room in time for movie night.


Fixing Those Pesky Flickers

Fixing Those Pesky Flickers

The first thing most people do (rightly) when they see a bulb flickering is try to replace it, or just chalk it up to bad weather or a momentary dim from a momentary glitch. Most of the time, this is all a flicker denotes but some flickers (think a three-to-four-second flicker) can become annoyances and represent a fault that requires either immediate or forthcoming repair.  Now, to be sure, we’re not talking about the expected dims that can come from CFL bulbs (the twirly, spiral energy-saving ones) connected to dimmer switches, but rather repetitive flickers that usually coincide with other electrical usage.

Consistent flickers are usually due to a poor connection in your wiring, affecting a singular part of your circuit. If an entire circuit is affected, the source of the problem will likely be in the breaker or, less frequently, the panel; the panel is a regular source for flickers on an entire circuit. But we’re talking about consecutive flickers coming from a single source. For an example, let’s say an overhead light is flickering every time you turn it on at night. The source of the problem will almost always be spotty connections coming from the light fixture, the switch box or the outlet. To help diagnose which one it is, one should mark when the flickering occurs and for how long. For instance, if it starts immediately as you flip the switch, the likely culprit is the switch box. It’ll make for an easier project, whether you’re trying to fix it yourself or you’re hiring a professional.

Though this seems like a minor issue, these problems almost always cause arcing, which can heat up connections or wires and lead to further problems either with the single fixture or the overall circuit if it goes unchecked. Smaller, fickle outages will likely be unable to be diagnosed until they erupt in an outright open. In any case, the rule of thumb here is to trust a professional electrician with these problems though, if you do go DIY, be sure to shut off electricity to the entire circuit if you’re attempting to replace or repair the wiring or connection.


Let’s Change the Light Fixture!

Let’s Change the Light Fixture!

The act of installing a light fixture is, at the end of the day, a relatively easy task to do by one’s self in the home improvement arena. By learning a few basic truths about electrical work, the job can be done with little more than wire cutters, a flat-head screwdriver and something sturdy to stand on. Oh! And safety measures, of course. Picking and putting up your new light fixture should be one of the easier electrical jobs an amateur DIYer can come to.

First things first: turn off the current. You can turn off the circuit breaker or, if you’d prefer, take out the fuse that supplies energy to the area you’re working in. It’s really your choice. Remove the glass covers on both your new fixture and any existing fixtures, as well as the light bulbs on the existing fixture. If you are indeed replacing an existing fixture, you must disconnect it from the electrical box. There should be one or more screws on the fixture that are used to mount it on the electrical box, behind the fixture; the mounting brackets must be removed as well.

Now, be sure to take down how the existing fixture has been connected to the electrical box; you’ll need this to connect the new fixture. For instance, the wires might be connected directly with the screws that are on the light fixture, or there may be wires that come out of it which are connected to the wires that are coming from the electrical box found within the ceiling or wall. Either way, you will have to disconnect these wires and remember how they are connected.

Once you’ve disconnected everything, attach the wires to your new light fixture. There should be three kinds of wires — white, black, green. The white is the negative, the black is the positive, and the green is the ground; the ground may also be copper. If connected directly to the light fixture, the black wire goes with the brass screw, the white wire goes with the silver screw and the green goes with the green screw. If the new fixture already has wire connections, you will have to connect these with the wires from the electrical box, which means you’ll be using plastic colored wire nuts in this case. When using this type of connection, nut and wire colors are corresponding (black with black).

After everything is connected, simply mount the new fixture to the electrical box with the screws that came with the fixture; in some cases, a mounting bracket may be needed. Put your covers on, screw in your light bulbs and switch your power supply back on, and you’ll be ready to go.


Sophisticated, stunning, one of a kind walls

Sophisticated, stunning, one of a kind walls

There are many ways to make your home unique and beautiful. Painting an accent wall in a striking color, adding wallpaper to a room or updating your windows with brand new curtains are all great ways to give your rooms more personality and pizzazz. However, there are also more subtle ways to make your home stand out and turn ordinary walls into stunning works of art. For homeowners in Westchester, wall moldings are the perfect way to make your space feel more polished and sophisticated.

Although they present the ideal opportunity to make a home unique, the walls of many homes tend to be boring. Many homeowners decide to play it safe by leaving their walls bare; unfortunately, this level of conservatism in decorating can make a home seem devoid of personality and style. Wall moldings are a small touch that can dramatically increase the elegance of your rooms and give them more character – with minimal work! If you want to improve the look and feel of your home in Westchester, wall moldings can help you to do so.

Wall moldings have been used in architecture since antiquity, and it’s easy to see why. Wooden or stucco frames around doors, ceilings, floors, windows and entryways serve to define borders and create an appealing interplay of shadow and light. Just as a picture frame enhances a work of art, moldings can increase the visual allure of walls. Base moldings around floors can give your rooms a finished appearance, and crown moldings add elegance to ceilings. For homeowners in Westchester, wall moldings come in a huge variety of styles, making it easy to find the right moldings to complete your decorating scheme and make your home your own. If you’re ready to say goodbye to boring walls, and hello to stunning style, adding moldings to your home could be just the ticket!


Bring it back to life

Bring it back to life

There are many things that go into making your home look great. Thoughtfully chosen pieces of art and antiques, a well thought-out color scheme, well maintained floors – the list goes on and on. Just as there are many things that can make your home beautiful, however, there are also things that can make your home look shabby. Chipped paint, scuffed floorboards, fraying curtains or ill-fitting doors are just a few of the things that can rob your home of its good looks and make it seem run-down. One of the number one culprits in making houses look old and worn is woodwork that has seen better days. For homeowners in Westchester, licensed contractors can help.

If you want to give new life to your home in Westchester, licensed contractors can help you to make it look gorgeous again. Many elements of your home are easy to replace yourself: threadbare area rugs, cracked mirrors or outdated furniture can be easily disposed of and replaced. Other things, however aren’t so simple to replace or refurbish. Wood molding around doors, windows and fireplaces, for example, can be very difficult to renovate. Properly preparing and treating the wood is a painstaking, time consuming process that requires the right tools and expertise.

For homeowners in Westchester, licensed contractors are your best bet if you want to keep your home looking great. When it comes to restoring your woodwork, you want it to come out looking better than ever; the best way to achieve this is to always go with a qualified professional. A licensed contractor can strip away old paint to reveal the beautiful wood underneath, and sand and stain it to give a natural, yet polished and elegant look to your home. If you want to give the woodwork in your home a new lease on life, a professional contractor can help you to do so!


A Backyard Pergola

A Backyard Pergola

Backyards are often the nicest and most prized possessions of a home. With the proper upkeep, your garden can be the most frequented part of your home and possibly even the most beautiful. What can be bad about gorgeous plants and flowers in the outdoors?

Well, there is one tiny detail that can ruin all that beauty of the outdoors: the blazing sun. Sitting outside with the sun burning down upon you makes you want to run back in to the boring, but air conditioned, indoors. If only you could provide a sufficient amount of shade in your backyard…

A Westchester Pergola installation is a godsend to your dilemma. Having a pergola installed in your Westchester home will add shade to your garden and to its nearby deck, allowing you to enjoy it better and for longer periods of time. When you decide to add a pergola to your garden, it is important to remember to only hire a professional who will insure that your pergola is properly installed and has a sturdy structure.

Buying a puny umbrella to block the sun is mere child’s play as compared to a pergola. A Westchester Pergola installation is a more efficient method at providing a wide amount of space with shade. Pergolas are generally placed over your backyard seating area, making it easier to host meals or birthday parties outdoors and giving your guests more room to move around. Even if you aren’t the hosting kind of family, having a Westchester Pergola installation done by a professional will benefit you on a day-to-day basis. Dinner in the backyard, reading books outside on a Sunday, or just watching your kids play in the garden. Whatever it is that you choose to utilize your backyard for, having a pergola installed insures that you can enjoy being outside without the heat getting to you.


Westchester Renovations Return

Westchester Renovations Return

In the last few years, many homeowners have been very frugal with their budgets. Forgoing vacations, skipping fancy restaurant meals and sticking with an old car, rather than purchasing a shiny new one, are all ways in which homeowners have adjusted to lean economic times and reined in their expenses. Rather than renovating their homes, many people decided to simply live with the things that were less than ideal, reasoning that their money could be better spent elsewhere. However, as the economy starts to pick up again, so too are home prices. And, as home prices rise, homeowners are beginning to look at ways to improve the value of their homes – and make them more comfortable, attractive, and unique. If you’re ready to create the changes you’ve dreamed about in your home in Westchester, licensed contractors can help to make your dreams a reality!

Higher home values mean that your biggest investment – your home – will have a bigger payoff. Better home equity gives you more freedom to pursue redecorating projects, landscape your yard, build an addition onto your house, or whatever would bring you the greatest satisfaction. If you want to make positive changes to your home in Westchester, licensed contractors can help.

For homeowners in Westchester, licensed contractors are the people to call for all of your renovation needs. Rather than trying to do it yourself – a proposition that could lead to wasted time, wasted money, and lots of headaches in the long run – hiring a qualified professional contractor can help your home look great, and give you the peace of mind of knowing that the job was done right. Whether you want to remodel a bathroom, install a beautiful tiled floor in your kitchen, renovate your back yard or paint your walls in a fresh new color, now is the perfect time to embark on all of your home improvement projects!


Dollars dripping down the drain

Dollars dripping down the drain

There are many things around the house that are fairly easy to ignore. Cobwebs accumulating on top of a cupboard, a hall closet stuffed with old shoes and moldering umbrellas, a basement filled with old magazines and unused sports equipment, hedges in the back yard in need of a trim. All of these things need to be addressed eventually, as they can have a negative effect on your quality of life, the value of your property, and even, eventually, your health. However, none of these problems is costing you money in the short term. Not all issues in your house can be put off with no financial consequences, however. For homeowners in Westchester, leaky faucet repair is something that you can’t afford to put off.

Have you ever heard the incessant “drip drip” of a leaky faucet, but ignored it? Many homeowners reason that a leaky faucet is no big deal, and can repaired whenever the mood strikes them. Unless you want to pay much more than you should on your water bills, however, leaky faucets should be fixed immediately. Although it may seem like only a small amount of water is being lost through a dripping faucet, the truth is that it can quickly add up. If you don’t want to see the water bills skyrocket at your home in Westchester, leaky faucet repair should be done as soon as you notice a problem.

Although it may seem like something you can easily do yourself in the course of an afternoon, repairing a leaky faucet actually requires specialized knowledge and tools. Getting the job done right the first time can give you great peace of mind, and save you money and headaches down the road. If you want to save money and keep the faucets in good working order in your home in Westchester, leaky faucet repair should always be entrusted to a licensed professional plumber.