Category archive - Kitchen

A Blender Blunder

A Blender Blunder

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Seeing as big companies make them, appliances can often seem as much more complicated as devices than they really are to Westchester homeowners. This is as true of blenders as any other appliance, and fixing a busted blender is surprisingly an easier task than you would expect.

There is three typical causes for blender malfunction: motors that become burnt-out, blades that get clogged, or an interruption has occurred in your electrical connection. The first two causes are easy to diagnose and fix, but in the case of diagnosing an electrical interruption, you will need a voltmeter and a contact sprat solvent, which are handy tools to have in your Westchester home regardless.

To test the blender’s electrical, disconnect the electrical cord and turn the blender switch on. Set the voltmeter on the RX1 scale and carefully place the meter’s two probes onto the two metal prongs of the plug. While watching the meter’s readings, test out each of the blender’s switches, one at a time and note the markings.

Low readings indicate a normal switch that is functioning perfectly. What you want to look out for is an infinity reading on the meter, which is indicative of an electrical defect. To investigate further, you will need to expose the screws that hold the switch housing cover in place. While the device is still unplugged, remove the plastic faceplate that covers the housing and, subsequently, the screws that attach the plate to the housing.

Now that the mechanism is exposed, use the contact spray solvent to clean the contacts, openings and terminals at the rear of the switch block. After you have cleaned out the mechanism, plug it back in and test the switches again. This usually fixes the mechanism, but if the blender continues to not work, unplug it again and find the fuse, which is usually located at the end of a wire lead coming from a terminal connected to the power cord.

With your voltmeter still set to RX1, clip the probes ends to the two lead wires or terminals. If the reading is high again, disconnect the probes and look on the metal cap of the fuse to find the size and write it down, as it will need to be replaced. This will almost certainly fix a purely electrical issue but if the issue is with the blades, that’s another story. While the machine is still unplugged, carefully try turning the blade shaft. Debris will usually be very easy to see and easy enough to dispose of but in rare cases, you may have to replace the coupling.

If none of this works, you more than likely have a burnt-out motor, which will require you replacement, but considering the cost, you will likely just want to buy a new blender for your Westchester home. Otherwise, replace all screws and plates, and get some ice, tequila and margarita mix, and whip yourself up a congratulatory drink.


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.


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.


Preparing Your Pipes for Winter

Preparing Your Pipes for Winter

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.


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.

Keeping Clogs in Check

Keeping Clogs in Check

For several reasons that I don’t care to go through right now, there is no clear history of clogs in the United States, nor in any other country. This is a problem I thought the Internet would have solved, but as it turns out, the Internet has slacked off big time. I asked a NYC plumber that I routinely work with about it and all he could give me is remembrances of jobs he went on with his father to dormitories and military bases, where clogs were a weekly ordeal. But there was no talk about what must have been epic clogs in the 19th century—just look at the facial hair from that day and age and tell me the constant trimmings didn’t cause some doozies.

I’ve been dealing with a rash of clogs in both my bathroom and my kitchen recently, the result, I suspect, of a not all that wise attempt to grow my hair and beard out a bit.  Most of them were fixed with chemicals, but Monday night, I found myself struggling with what I would politely call a ravenous beast of a clog in my shower. I called up a NYC plumber friend (my aforementioned colleague, in fact) and he talked me through the process, beginning with a homemade version of a clog dissolvent with baking powder and white vinegar, that ended up not working.

So, taking my friends advice, I popped open the drain with a screwdriver, straightened a metal hanger and got a plunger. I plunged the drain for what had to be ten minutes (my arms still hurt!) and lo and behold, when I took the plunger off, I could clearly see the clog some three feet or so down the drain. I then made a hook with the wire hanger, snaked it down the drain and with only a little bit of maneuvering was able to get the culprit, a wet wad of mess that I will spare detailed definition of, for your benefit.

This was the end of my nightmare but my friend was quick to point out that this is a 50/50 fix, meaning that the other half the time you will have to hire an actual NYC plumber and get a professional snaking job done, or at least get them to inspect the clog firsthand. Still, it’s a relief to have these moments when you can just ask a friend for some advice and put your own elbow into it. That’s old news but the feeling rarely feels old or tired.


Be Yourself With A New, Personalized Backsplash

Be Yourself With A New, Personalized Backsplash

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.


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.


Cabinet Face Lift

Cabinet Face Lift

You’ve agreed to host the annual office party at your house, and you’re eager for everything to be perfect. You’ve spent weeks dusting, polishing and scrubbing every surface until it shines; you’ve vacuumed and mopped every floor and made sure that everything is in its proper place. You’re planning to start the party with cocktails and appetizers in the kitchen, and are excited to show off this beautiful space, with its granite countertops, sleek stainless steel sink and shiny, modern appliances. Just as you’re setting out bowls of olives, platters of bruschetta and pitchers of mineral water with lemon and mint, you realize that something is amiss. Although your kitchen has been scrubbed down thoroughly, with the stovetop gleaming and the floors polished to a high shine, it’s simply not as perfect as it could be – you need new cabinets!

For homeowners who take pride in the appearance of their home, it’s important that everything be just right – especially in the kitchen, where you spend so much time and do so much entertaining. Your cabinets can easily make what is otherwise an ideal kitchen look less-than-perfect. For homeowners in Westchester, cabinet refacing is an economical alternative to complete cabinet replacement.

If you want to improve the kitchen of your home in Westchester, cabinet refacing can help you to do so – without breaking the bank! Rather than paying to have your old cabinets ripped out and replaced, cabinet refacing spruces up your cabinets where it really counts. A qualified professional can repaint and refinish your cabinets, or install new wood or laminate veneer to make them look great again. If the cabinets are in really bad shape in the kitchen of your home in Westchester, cabinet refacing can even mean replacing cabinet doors and drawer fronts. If you want to be able to feel great about your kitchen and to entertain with confidence and pride, cabinet refacing can be a great choice!


Sometimes a complete kitchen renovation is the only option

Sometimes a complete kitchen renovation is the only option

When you give guests a tour of your home, the first stop is usually the kitchen – and it’s easy to see why! The kitchen is the vibrant heart of the home, the place where food is prepared, meals are shared, guests are entertained and memories are made. Whether you’re inviting friends over for an elegant cocktail party, or getting covered head-to-toe in flour while introducing your kids to the joys of baking, the kitchen is invariably the center of the action. For homeowners in Westchester, kitchen renovation can be a great way to make the most out of this vital space.

When your kitchen is in the best possible condition, your ability to cook fabulous, elaborate meals increases, as does your pride in your home. For homeowners in Westchester, kitchen renovation may seem like overkill when all you need to do is replace an outdated sink, repair some flooring and spiff up your cabinets. However, tackling each issue one by one, and dealing with problems as they arise in the future, is often not the smartest course of action. Rather than dealing with the nuisance of your counters being torn up one month, your refrigerator being replaced the next, and your backsplash being renovated the month after that, it’s better to get all of the chaos out of the way at once.

If you want to get the best out of the kitchen in your home in Westchester, kitchen renovation can save you money, as well as time and hassle. Rather than going to the trouble and expense of hiring a plumber, a flooring specialist, a counter top installation professional and a carpenter – all at different times – it makes good economic sense to get a quote for the whole job. Renovating your whole kitchen can also enable you to catch problems – such as plumbing leaks – earlier than you would have otherwise, saving you tons of hassle down the road. If you want to make a lasting difference to the most important room in your home, complete kitchen renovation is the way to go!