All posts tagged 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.


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.


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.