Monthly archive - November 2012

Preparing Your Pipes for Winter

Preparing Your Pipes for Winter

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At first, frozen pipes seem like a homeowner’s smallest worry. That is until one breaks. Suddenly, your walls, ceilings, floors and personal possessions, stored away in the basement or any crawl space, are utterly ruined. Even if you have home insurance and the damages are covered, you’re home will be invaded by a small crew until the mess gets repaired. Best to ensure it never happens in the first place.

Before you get the winter jackets out, shut off the valves supplying your outside water lines. Individual outdoor supply lines will usually have a shut off valve on the inside, around where the outdoor supply starts. Open the tap to allow any small deposits of water left in the line to freeze and expand without damage. Leave it that way until it finishes draining.

The real trouble comes from pipes that aren’t used often. When cold and unused pipes warm up suddenly, water flows out of the broken pipes into the walls and down through ceilings. To prevent this from happening, go further and shut off both your hot water tank and the water supply to your entire home before opening the taps and draining the water. So, even if your furnace does stop working while you’re away, there isn’t any water to freeze.

Any water pipes that run close to outside or in unheated nooks should be checked as well. Fiberglass insulation should be installed between any outdoor pipes and closest walls to help keep them warm. Pipe sleeve insulation is a bit expensive but the best choice for pipes in unheated nooks, and be sure to insulate both hot and cold water pipes.

If a cold spell hits before you have time to take such precautions, a quick short-term solution can be to leave a tap running at extremely low flow. It might cost you a little extra when your water bill arrives but its guaranteed to be less expensive and a lot less annoying than fixing a frozen and/or ruptured pipe.


Fixing Tiles on a Fixed Budget

Fixing Tiles on a Fixed Budget

Installing tiles is something that needs to be planned out carefully on various levels. One has to pick out color and design, consider how it will look in the designated area, make decisions as to what the rest of the kitchen will look like and then, inevitably, there is the task of actually putting down the base, the mesh, the tiles and the grout. Nothing can really be left to chance or ignored.

In contrast, damaging tiles is often done with the most minor and ignorable of actions: Erosion from constant wear, scrapes from furniture and other harsh edges, dirt rubbed and ground in, dropped items both weighty and sharp, and certain chemical cleaners. Naturally, replacing damaged tiles is something that comes up frequently, especially in kitchen floors and bathrooms. You’ll need the following items:

  •       Colored Masking Tape
  •       Replacement Tiles
  •       Nails & Hammer
  •       Chisel
  •       Trowel
  •       Grout & Grout Float
  •       Sponge
  •       Set Mortar
  •       Gloves (optional)

Begin by taping off the surrounding area of the tiles with the masking tape, being sure to cut the tape before the grout, as that will be getting replaced as well. So, the damaged tile(s) and the grout directly surrounding it should be taped off. Take a nail and hit it into the center of the damaged tile(s) to shatter the tile and make it easier to pick up in pieces. Use a chisel to clear out every last trace of the old tile, so that you can lay the new tile on an even surface. (You might want to use gloves while picking up the small shards to make sure you don’t get cut.)

Once the space is clear, take your replacement tile(s) and put a very thin layer of thin set mortar on the bottom of the tile with a trowel. Make sure it is just enough to set the tile in place, as you don’t want to have any mortar squeeze up around the sides of the tile. Let it dry (six to eight hours, to be safe) and then lay down some grout using a grout float to make sure it gets deep into the surrounding area.  When you’re done, use a sponge to clean up any unwanted grout on the tile(s). Let the grout dry and pull up the tape to take a look at your brand new tile(s). It’s just one more thing to ensure you don’t have to call in an armada of contractors to fix a minor problem in your home.


Kitchen-Sink Cleaners and Cleaning

Kitchen-Sink Cleaners and Cleaning

In all likelihood, you’ll have at least one weekend in the near future devoted to scrubbing, sweeping, picking up, dusting off and tossing out scraps around your home. Between trash bags and scrubbing brushes, new appliances and garden supplies, you’re spending enough, so why not concoct some easy DIY air fresheners and cleaning supplies instead of loading up your shopping cart and depleting your bank account? Here are a few tips:

  •    An easy way to keep your kitchen smelling great is to take a few oranges, lemon, or any major citrus fruit, cut them in half, and boil them in a pot with water filled up about halfway on a stovetop. If you want a more homey smell, add mull spices to make your kitchen smell like hot cider.
  • In your more troublesome smell areas, place small bowls and fill them with freshly ground coffee. Ground coffee is a potent, deep and pleasant odor and it also acts as an excellent absorber of all your most funky and foul stinks. If you live with a smoker or just have one lying around, an ashtray is the perfect place to put the grounds.
  • Not all that keen on spending more money on clog remover? Pour a cup of baking soda, a cup of white vinegar, a cup of salt (generic or sea) and then pour about two-to-three cups of boiling water down, as a reactant. The resulting mixture will likely dissolve any small-to-medium-size clog you’re having trouble with.
  • For window cleaning, mix about a quarter-to-half-cup of vinegar, a tablespoon or two of cornstarch and a quart of hot water. This mixture is a surefire way to get all those annoying streaks off of your windows or your patio doors in a jiffy.
  • Mix a quarter-cup of baking soda and a quart of hot water for a perfect all-purpose cleaner for your floors, countertops, walls and tables. If you want to add some fresh scents, squeeze half a lemon into the mixture or add a few drops of your favorite essential oil. This way your house will smell and look fresh, and you can use the money saved on some colorful pieces for your unique décor.

Trees and Shrubs Are No Trouble in Winter

Trees and Shrubs Are No Trouble in Winter

The best time to plant shrubs, along with trees and long-growing flowers, is right when it turns colder; this goes double when you consider that gardening centers and supplies stores hold sales regularly in these times. Roots are given time to grow and establish, and by the time Spring saunters in, you’re looking at the beginning of a healthy, long-lasting set of trees and shrubs. As the man said, all you need is water.

To be clear, cold months are a good time to plant your shrubs, trees and perennial flowers, not fertilize them; wait for the spring and summer to do your pruning and fertilizing. Before you go to the store, do some heavy research on fall/winter gardening. Plot out where you’ll want to plant, how tall and what the spread of the mature plant would be, and what plants are habitable and easy to grow in your region. It’s important to be both careful and reasonable when selecting the plant as well: look for healthy plants but forgive them if they are a bit frayed, imperfect or discolored, as it is the end of the season after all.

Measure the root ball at the bottom of your plant. The hole you plant it in should be approximately three times that size to allow for healthy growth and sturdy roots. Carefully remove the tree and loosen the roots if the ball comes in a container, and cut twine from any branches; if its just burlap, plant it with the burlap still attached. Regardless, it is essential that the roots are loose when planting when you place the tree or shrub into the hole and backfill. For ground with more clay, mix soil evenly with peat moss and be sure to tamp the soil down after planting.

To ensure and promote great growing, you can create a saucer around the edge of the planting by building up a 2” barrier to prevent water from escaping before it soaks into the ground. A layer of compost spread around the top of the tree or shrub, not at the roots, to enrich the native soil. Make sure that the soil around the plant stays moist until the ground freezes. Adequate water supply is crucial to the plant lasting through the winter as the soil freezes over; water bags are a good item to ensure that they get enough water through the fall. So, when the warm weather comes back, your trees and shrubs will be ready to burst into visible life.


Examining Your Electrical System In New Homes

Examining Your Electrical System In New Homes

A home inspector’s work is never done. Whenever a new home is being prepared for purchase, an inspector will likely be scheduled to inspect the house and perform a number of check-ups: outstanding code violations and safety issues are their bread and butter. As laborers, however, they are human and can miss certain problems, and electrical issues are their most prominent blunder. Studies made in the last few years have suggested that 20% of U.S. homes have a wiring problem of some sort. Some of these problems can come with a serious price tag, so it’s good to know what to look for, as a double check for busy home inspectors.

When it comes to old homes, undersized electrical services are the norm. When they were built, there was one television in the home, usually, and no one knew what an internet was. So, make sure the electrical panel is capable of supporting your electrical needs, whenever dealing with an older home, by making sure the amps on the electrical panel are 200 or more. If you are a technology lover, you may even need an upgrade from 200. And in these older homes, it’s not uncommon to find the entire home wired with fiberglass-insulated wires. These fiber-insulated wires are famous for fraying and can bring on rodent infestation in certain cases. If you find any wires in your basement that go through joists, inspect them for any sign of damage, including fraying.

If you are planning on keeping some of the seller’s appliances, smart move but do your homework. Find out when the appliances were purchased and if they have ever been serviced. This will ensure that this gesture isn’t just to raise the price a bit or cut down on moving costs. Some appliances require dedicated circuits straight from the electrical panel, so it’s important to check that your panel has dedicated wiring to the stove, fridge,  microwave and dishwasher. One should also be sure to buy or borrow a voltage tester to ensure each electrical outlet in the home is grounded and working popularly; plug-in testers are best for these scenarios. Check the electrical outlets to make sure each one has a ground prong and then use a plug-in voltage tester to make sure they are grounded. Most homes now require a three-prong outlet and, in areas that are prone to moisture (bathrooms, kitchens, exteriors etc.), GFCI outlets must be installed. This will also gauge whether the polarity is wrong and if you have lost neutral or feed.

To quickly check your lights, install new light bulbs in all of the permanently installed fixtures in the home. Do the bulbs dim or blink when you put them in? This will check for voltage drops or loose connections in those particular circuits. And whenever dealing with a junction box, take a look inside but do NOT touch the wires inside. Do not touch the wiring, just look at it to see if the connections look good. If a connection looks faulty or loose to you, call an electrician in to check or, after turning off the breaker, carefully inspect the connections yourself. This is also an opportune time to check that the home has an adequate amount of smoke detectors (one on each floor, outside bedrooms, smaller rooms and/or kitchens) and a carbon monoxide detector. To check if they work, simply install a new battery (usually a 9-volt) and run a test.

Finally, if you find any scorch marks on any outlet or if it smells like something burnt, then that circuit has gone through a dead short. Ask whether the circuit was repaired and if the plate or outlet was replaced, and if the seller is dodgy, ask a professional electrician to double check. Some of these things will, in fact, be checked by more attentive inspectors but when buying a new home, its best to check for issues early, before you get a slew of extra electrician bills tagged onto the original price.


Paving Your Patio with Precision

Paving Your Patio with Precision

Having a patio on which to place furniture, enjoy summer barbecues and relax on warm days is a great advantage. It allows you to expand your house from the inside out, giving you additional living space and a place to enjoy the outdoors from the convenience and comfort of your home. However, if your patio space is unpaved, it won’t be nearly as nice! Bare dirt and gravel from an unpaved patio can easily be tracked into the house, creating a mess that you’ll have to deal with day in and day out. An unpaved area is also much more susceptible to erosion from the elements, and can get muddy after rain or snow. In order to truly enjoy the patio of your home on Long Island, patio paving is absolutely necessary.

Once you decide that you want to pave your patio, selecting a paving material is the first step. There are many paving materials to choose from: flagstone, brick and concrete are all great choices that allow you to customize your patio to suit your tastes and preferences. Whether you’re going for a classic, understated ambiance, or you want to make a bold statement with your patio, brick, stone and concrete are all versatile materials that allow you to create your own unique look. For residents of Long Island, patio paving is a great opportunity to beautify your home and showcase your personal style.

When you decide to pave your patio, you have a couple of options. If you have experience with home improvement projects and you have some time on your hands, patio paving is a project you can do yourself. It does, however, require time, patience, dedication and attention to detail. Hiring a professional means that all the work is done for you – and that you can count on professional results. Whichever route you take, patio paving is well worth it. If you want to give new life to the backyard of your home on Long Island, patio paving is a great way to do so!


New Appliances Need Expertise

New Appliances Need Expertise

Buying a new appliance can be a very satisfying experience: getting rid of a creaky washing machine, an out of date fridge or an ancient stove and replacing it with a shiny new one is a great feeling! However, many homeowners are wary of the cost of purchasing and installing new appliances. For many people in Westchester, appliance installation is seen as an unnecessary expense; why spend money on professional installation if you can easily do it yourself? The answer to this question is that appliance installation is not as easy as it seems!

Although you may think that appliance installation can be accomplished quickly and with minimal hassle, there are lots of things that can go wrong as the result of even minor mistakes. Appliances that use water, such as dishwashers, washing machines and some refrigerators, can cause severe water damage if they are not properly installed. Even minor leaks can cause major damage before they are finally detected. Professionals are trained to be attentive to the little details that homeowners might not notice, even if they are being extra careful.

Appliances that use gas, such as stoves and gas dryers, can be particularly dangerous if not installed correctly. An ill-fitting or improperly placed gas line has the potential to leak, leading not only to expensive energy loss, but also to potential fires and explosions.

For optimal safety, function and long-term cost savings, it’s a much smarter option to have your appliances professionally installed. Compared to the potential hassle and expense of dealing with an improperly installed appliance, paying an expert to give your appliance a proper installation will make you happier in the long run. After all, the whole point of buying a brand new appliance is to have something that works perfectly and predictably – not something that will cause you more headaches! Do yourself a favor, and have your appliances professionally installed.