Category archive - General

Where Does The Wind Go?

Where Does The Wind Go?

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It’s been a few windy days out here in Queens and the damage being done might be ignored. As much as precipitation might have the upper hand in terms of what can be done to your Westchester home, big gusts of wind can do similar long-term damage that will have you paying an arm and a leg down the road for roof repair or, worse yet, total roof replacement. There are ways to avoid this or, at the very least, make the damage more manageable, but first it’s good to understand how strong winds hurt your roofing.

Usually, shingles are simply nailed to the top of the roof and layered to create a seal to protect from water damage. Now, when high-speed wind gusts hit your roof, they not only does it loosen the shingles placement, but also break that seal. A single, strong gust of wind can lift a loose shingle off the roof completely. So, after any major storms or weeks with high wind velocities, it’s not such a bad idea to check your shingles to make sure they are solidly in place.

As a concerned Westchester homeowner, it would not be wise to simply take roof damage as a minor concern, such as weeds or crab grass or a squeaky door hinge. The roof on a home is like a shield against water and once that shield is broken, the amount of damage that can be done is frankly tremendous. If there is even one shingle loose, then the rain, snow or hail has an access point into the home, and if you know anything about home repair, you know that water is often public enemy number one when it comes to home damage. Water can travel throughout the roof area and cause rotting and a leak, and often the rot or the leak will be on the other side of the home from the entry point.

When wind damage is added to other home or weather factors (clogged gutters, winter mix etc.) that are common in Westchester, it can be the perfect storm for a genuine home repair emergency. Wind damage plus water pooling gives liquid ample opportunity to access the weakness in the roof. In fact, in these cases, a rainstorm is preferable to pooling. Whereas the water only has time to enter until it hits the gutter during a storm, pooling allows the water to take its time and really do a number to your roof.

If wind damage is caught early or only minor in scope, all that really needs to be done is shingle replacement, which is relatively inexpensive. Left unchecked, however, wind damage can cause havoc with the entire roof structure and you may need to do an entire overhaul, which could put a hurt on your bank account, whether it’s you doing the work or a contractor. And if you’re going at it DIY style, why give your back that sort of grief when you could just simply check the shingles and replace a few on occasion.

It doesn’t take much time to survey your roof after high-velocity winds or a rainstorm and this simple act can end up saving big money in the long run. Be vigilant and attentive and you might just find yourself in a constant windfall.


How Many Coats of Paint Does It Take?

How Many Coats of Paint Does It Take?

In many cases, the wish to find a personal, creative color scheme for your Westchester home dissolves within minutes of entering the paint aisle. What finish? What shade? How many coats?! It can be exhausting and it’s easy enough to just throw your arms in the air and say “Lets just go with off-white!” No hit against off-white (its popular for a reason), but with a little knowledge, picking the color to match your dream interior is easy as pie.

In most cases, it is the focus on color and neglect of finish that throws many Westchester homeowners. Paints come in a variety of colors, sure, but they also come with different finishes and other elements that create a unique look. Matte paint, for instance, is the most common type of paint, which gives no shine or sheen when dried. It’s a relatively cheap choice but matte paint also requires at least two coats of painting and damage is often highly visible. Matte enamel is a good alternative, as it rarely requires touch-ups.

Gloss paint is also popular, boasting a finish that provides a high shine, but it similarly requires two or more coats and fails to hide damage. There’s also semi-gloss, which is more common on trim than walls because it offers a hard finish and is easy to clean. On the other hand, satin gives a finish that’s lands somewhere between matte and gloss and only requires one coat. It provides a low, soft sheen and is easy to clean.  Eggshell finish has a muted shine, but without the satin smoothness.

 

Even before you get to painting, however, a coat or two of primer will likely be required before you dip your brush in some color. If you don’t have the time or inclination to paint the same room four times, however, look for paints with built-in primers, which will likely only require two coats total. And when locating your chosen color, take a closer look and examine the color’s undertones. The undertones of your color will help guide you to a more clear, streamlined color scheme in your home and rooms.

Every color has a mass tone and an undertone. The mass tone is the color your eyes pick up first. Undertones are visible only when placed next to other, similar colors; the differentiation will bring out the undertones lurking below the surface color. You’ll suddenly see small, surprising differences between the seemingly near-interchangeable colors. If you’re looking at neutral colors, place your neutral swatch next to a pure color (red, yellow, green, blue, etc.). If your neutral has a specific undertone, a pure swatch of the opposite color will bring it to light. Now, your Westchester home colors will express everything that is you, not just your frustration and exhaustion.


How’s the Heat with the Hot Water?

How’s the Heat with the Hot Water?

Let us now say a prayer for forced air heating systems. They were good for awhile and kept many Westchester homes warm through the years, but let’s now leave these noisy relics in the dust and embrace the wonders of hot water heating systems. To say nothing about the ease of control, hot water heating offers a more evenly held heat and a more palpable heat, seeing as it is based on moisture rather than dry air. Hot water heating makes any home more comforting and welcoming during winter.

The furnaces used in hot water heating can be powered by gas, oil, coal, wood, or electric coil. Typically gravity fed or pumped, the heated water in the boiler travels up to the radiators, and as they disperse the heat, the cooler water travels down to the boiler to be reheated. More expensive systems even have hot water tubing under the floorboards, which provides uniform heat.

The radiators, however, are the key component and there are three basic types. First, there’re cast iron radiators, which are actually still very efficient despite their basicness. Radiators fitted with metal covering are similar but often include tubing covered with fins that provide additional convection heat. These fins increase the surface area of the heated parts, and boost energy efficiency. Lastly, there are baseboard heaters, which are more prominent in modern homes and actually provide the most efficient heating on the market. Along with the fins, the placement ensures whole room is heated from the bottom up, which is far more economical.

The issue is that hot water heating systems eventually get air in them and most don’t offer vents. As such, Westchester homeowners must “bleed” their hot water heating systems occasionally to ensure efficient use of heat. System valves are easily opened with a key wrench and all you have to do is put a cup, can or bucket under the valve, and open it up. Eventually, water will start running out of the valve, hence the bucket. In multi-story buildings or houses, it’s best to start on the top floor and make your way down, continuing until all floors have been taken care of.

There’s really only one more thing you have to do, and that is to drain out all the water in the system yearly. Begin by turning off the water supply valve, allowing the water cool completely down before moving ahead. Next, find the release valve on the boiler and attach a hose to it. Run the hose outside and completely drain the system, unless you can’t run a hose outside, in which case use drain the system via filling and emptying buckets. This process gets rid of the built-up minerals and rust in the system. Afterwards, open a bleeder valve on the highest radiator and refill the system. This way, your Westchester home will remain cozy and you won’t be nervous about the energy you’re using unduly jacking your energy bill up.


Cleaning Out Showerhead Crud

Cleaning Out Showerhead Crud

For Westchester homeowners, replacing a shower washer is one of the simplest and quickest plumbing repairs you can undertake and it is usually the source of many leaks one finds in regards to showerheads. While performing the repair, you’re also able to clean and maintain basic parts of the shower and de-scale the showerhead to ensure that you won’t have to fix or replace the washer again for a while.

To begin, turn off the water to the area where you will be working. This may involve turning off the water at the main supply. Let the shower run until no more water comes through and turn it off, and then remove the showerhead, either by using a wrench to loosen it from the shower pipe or screwing it off. You can use the same wrench to loosen the nut from the faucet and then remove the tube. When you loosen the showerhead and remove it from the hose, you might find a build-up of lime or scale, which can be cleaned easily enough in the process.

If you want to be diligent Westchester homeowner and keep these situations from happening again, you should clean the showerhead and washers once a year. To do this, fill a large bowl with vinegar and submerge the showerhead in the vinegar for an hour. When it’s done soaking, empty the bowl and clean the showerhead with water. Once it’s free of lime, you should be able to take apart the showerhead easily. First, however, take out the old shower washer to a hardware store to find an exact replacement. Upon returning, take apart the showerhead and secure the replacement before screwing the showerhead back together. You can use Teflon tape on the shower-arm thread to ensure no leaks. When screwing the showerhead back onto the arm, be careful not to screw it on too tightly, as this can lead to further showerhead issues.

Many Westchester homeowners have hand-held showerheads. For a hand-held shower, you should replace both washers. Its not particularly necessary, but it is better to be cautious. In this case, use the Teflon tape on the threads of the hose where the showerhead screws on, and also on the threads of the faucet where the hose attaches. In either case, when you’re finished, turn the water back on and run the shower for a minute or two and then turn it off to ensure the leak has been fixed. If there is an issue, tighten the connections a little more but otherwise, you should be able to use your shower without any subsequent drips.


Looking for Leaks

Looking for Leaks

Water is a tricky substance, which is why diagnosing a leak is often such a hassle. There is the all too familiar sound of a drip-drip, or the sight of warped wood, but the ugliest, most immediate sign of water damage is the sight of damp discoloration on the ceiling of the room below your bathroom. In most Westchester homes, this is a clear sign that there’s something wrong with your upstairs bathroom or kitchen’s plumbing but this is not 100% true. Water knows how to travel, and the water damage could just as well be from piping leading from your attic or roof or other second-story plumbing.

Lets look at showers and baths in any Westchester home as an example for pinpointing and differentiating between various leak sources. Leaks from baths and showers are as common as those from faucets or toilets, so its worth knowing how to zero in on the trouble spots. The most common origin spot is the grout around the tiles, which can shrink and allow water in behind the tiles.

Other popular spots are the tub’s filler, which may have a worn-out washer or an improperly sealed valve threads, and the tub itself, which might similarly suffer from improper sealing or cracks that are (usually) easily identifiable. Less likely but possible culprits include a problem with the overflow pipe (worn-out or shoddily installed overflow washer) or the drain (clogged outlet pipe).

For the drain, a simple way to test is to run a length of tubing (black rubber will do) from your vanity faucet fixture to your drain and send water down the drain for anywhere from 10-20 minutes. If the leak doesn’t show up, you know the drain and the attached plumbing is secure. And unless the leak is constant throughout the day, the hot and cold-water valves are not the culprits.

The next suspects are the tub and the tub filler. The latter is easy enough to check: Just fill your tub and look for a leak from the filler (the tub faucet). This usually denotes broken piping, usually on a copper elbow. As for the tub overflow, close your tub drain and fill the tub to the overflow and look for your leak; if this ends up being your trouble, it likely will require the replacing of the sealing or the washer on your overflow.

The most complex check for Westchester homeowners is the plumbing behind the showerhead. You’ll need to take off the showerhead and cap the stem with a threaded cap before running the water. After 10 to 15 minutes, check the leak area. If this turns out to be the problem, you will need a plumber to look at the rest of the stem and the piping behind and below the showerhead.

The very last check is the most common: The grout. The DIY check requires you to run water over each wall of your shower individually for ten minutes, either using the showerhead or a hose from another water source. A plumber will likely be needed, regardless, but the more information you have to give him makes the job quicker and the price, in most scenarios, at least minutely less expensive.


Set Your Sights to Siding Repair

Set Your Sights to Siding Repair

There’s no doubt about it: winter is the harshest season for your siding. Wind, rain, sleet, snow and hail all leave their mark, and can cause damage that ranges from minor to major. Vinyl siding repair should be done in the spring or summer to address the damage done by extreme winter weather. We’re just getting into the days of winter, but it’s never too early to prepare for repair.

Vinyl can be a great option for home siding. It is economical, costing less than other popular siding materials, such as wood, and doesn’t require the same level of maintenance. Because the pigment is mixed into the vinyl during manufacturing, the color will not chip or fade over time, as is the case with paint applied to the surface of wood or aluminum siding. The manufacturing process uses less energy than aluminum or wood, making it an environmentally friendly choice. Although it is easy to maintain for many Westchester homeowners, vinyl siding repair may still be necessary at some point.

Even though it offers many advantages – it is economical, versatile and environmentally friendly – vinyl siding has one major downfall: cold temperatures can cause it to become brittle, and more susceptible to damage. When temperatures drop in winter, vinyl siding loses much of its resilience, making it particularly vulnerable to damage from impact. Hail storms are the primary concern when it comes to vinyl siding, but any impact when it’s cold outside can do damage. Rocks, baseballs, and anything else that hits your Westchester house when the weather is cold can hurt your siding.

Vinyl siding repair should be performed in the spring or summer by Westchester homeowners, after the danger of frost is past. Once the weather warms up, there is much less chance of damage to your siding, meaning that the repairs should stand you in good stead until bad weather hits again.


Wiping Out Weak Water Pressure

Wiping Out Weak Water Pressure

A common yet often ignored problem, low water pressure in a kitchen faucet is caused by a myriad of issues. On occasion, low water pressure will need the experience of a professional, but even in those cases, identifying the problem will help greatly in getting the repair finished quickly.

There are several ways to determine why your kitchen faucet has low water pressure. First, if you have recently remodeled or done any construction that has included new water fixtures, the issue is likely low delivery and can be fixed by upgrading your main pipe. In the case of a single clogged spout, you can simply unscrew the spout on the troublesome faucet and check the aerator for build-up. On the other hand, if you’re having pressure issues throughout the house, consider adding a supplemental booster pump to the main line. These are all moderately easy fixes.

In the case that the low pressure is only occurring in the kitchen, the problem is equally easy to work on. You’ll likely find a screen at the end of the faucet spout where the water comes out. Unscrew the spout by hand and check for any build-up; this is much like dealing with a clog. Remove apparent blockage is a no-brainer but you might also find sediment, which takes a bit more time. You must first unscrew the aerator, take it apart, and soak all the individual parts in a mixture of warm water and vinegar. If the crud won’t budge, get thee to a hardware or department store and get a commercial calcium remover and soak the parts in that. In either case, after the build-up is removed, dry the spout, reassemble and reattach the aerator to the faucet before testing.

Here’s where things get interesting. Sometimes, the faucet’s cartridge, which allows water to pass through the spout, can malfunction and cause low pressure. If this is the case, you must remove the faucet head, find and unscrew the screw under the faucet spout, and lift off the faucet head. You should see the cartridge right there and it should be open. If not, remove the housing and clean everything of debris or calcium build-up. Replace the thin housing and faucet head before testing the solution.

The worst-case scenario is build-up in the faucet piping. With galvanized piping, the issue is likely build-up from age and sediment. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can diagnose this by unscrewing the riser from the basement and then back up the fitting in the basement to ensure the attached pipe or fitting does not break. Put a bucket below it and have a friend or family member turn the water on to check the flow and pressure of the removed pipe. If it’s not good, you’ll want to look into getting your entire home re-piped (sorry!), as this is an issue far beyond cleaners. If everything seems good, you likely just need one of the prior fixes. Thank your lucky stars.


A Little Luck for a Broken Lock

A Little Luck for a Broken Lock

Some things you just can’t prepare for. You drop your air conditioner while taking it out of the garage and crack a tile or damage hardwood floor; there’s no real way to expect that, other than asking the brawny neighbor to help you out. A rock hits your windshield on the way to work and you get a crack; what could you have possibly done to deter that? As Elvis Costello (and yeah, okay, a lot of more people before him) said, accidents will happen.

Having your key break-off in a lock is about as common as having your windshield cracked by some rebel pebble flicked off the pavement, and it is, by every measure, something that can be handled without professional care. You’ll need WD-40, or a similar spray lubricant; even spray olive oil could work in this situation. Besides that, you will need utensils for removing the key, chiefly any sort of thin saw blade and something to pick the protruding key piece out of the lock. Tweezers or pliers are your best bet and are easy to find around the house usually.

Begin by spraying the lock with the spray lubricant, to give you some help when it comes to dislodging the key piece from the lock. Thin saw blades are best for this situation, as the blades can easily hook into the grooves of the key. On one side of any key (take a look at one right now), the indent of the grove is more uneven, less smoth, and has a greater indentation. That’s the side you’re going to want to insert the saw blade into the lock. Once its in as far as possible, twist it a bit and try dragging out the key with the saw blade; you really only need a little bit but get as much as possible.

Once you get a little bit out, you should be able to grab the lodged key piece with the tweezers or pliers and presto! Now, in some cases, the key piece just will not budge from its place. This is likely because your lock isn’t in neutral position. Twist the saw blade a bit and it should solve the issue.  If it still won’t budge, only then should you consult a licensed and insured locksmith to help you out, as the locking mechanism likely has a bigger issue. And, as always, it’s easier to prevent this issue with preparation: check your keys every few months to see if there are any cracks or major bending that would signal a possible break. Sure, its an easy enough issue to solve, but wouldn’t you rather be able to crash on the couch instead of performing surgery on a doorknob?


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.