Monthly Archives: July 2015

  • Handyman Help: Choose the Right Flooring

    Choosing new flooring can be daunting – even for the most design-conscious individuals. There are various materials to choose from, as well as considerations including the layout of your space, lighting, and durability, to name a few. If your home project requires new flooring, consider these options:Man Installing Flooring

    Hardwood – A classic for handymen, designers, and DIYers, hardwood is durable and gives any space a natural and comfortable feel. Hardwood comes in a variety of shades and usually ties together disjointed rooms within a house. Oak is one of the most popular options, but there are so many options - from plank to exotic Brazilian cherry.

    Laminate – Another popular choice, laminate is easy to install and even easier on the wallet. This flooring is made when various wood-based materials are layered together and topped with a wood grain photographic imprint on the top of each board.

    Bamboo – Created by a lightweight woody grass, bamboo flooring has the strength of steel, making it highly resilient. The material resists swelling and contraction with changes in humidity. Pre-finished and made with tongue-and-groove joints, this flooring is easy to install.

    Cork – A “green” flooring alternative, the wood’s honeycomb-style structure gives the floor a cushioned feeling. Cork absorbs vibrations and sounds, and actually bounce back like new if dented. Cork tiles have a natural, non-slip top, perfect for kitchens and bathroom areas that are typically subject to water on the floor.

    Linoleum – This option is considered eco-friendly because it is made from all-natural materials. While it may not be the sleekest style, it does retain a level of popularity. Made primarily of linseed oil, rosins, and wood flour, it creates no adverse health issues during production, installation, use, or disposal. The bactericidal properties of natural linoleum stop microorganisms from multiplying, which is why many hospitals use it.

    Tile – Terra cotta, natural stone, and slate are great choices for flooring. Porcelain is the most budget-friendly option while still combining the beauty and hardness of stone. Glazed porcelain tiling is durable enough to handle heavy traffic areas and comes in a variety of sizes, colors, and textures. To get really creative, consider combining tiles of different sizes, colors, and textures for a truly unique floor.

  • Handyman Help: Steps to Install a Ceiling Fan for the Summer

    If you’ve received your first electricity bill since AC-usage started for the summer, you may be looking for options when it comes to keeping the house cool within more reasonable means. A ceiling fan makes a big difference in the climate of a home at a far lower cost than running an AC unit (or multiple units) throughout the day.

    Installing a ceiling fan for the summer does not require advanced handyman skills. First, decide on a location for the fan. Since a fan uses the same amount of power as a ceiling fixture, be sure the circuit has enough capacity. Next, determine the floor-to-ceiling distance and subtract the space that will be occupied by the fan. Check your local building codes to ensure your fan meets the requirement. If your ceiling is too low, consider a low-ceiling mount for the fan.Ceiling Fan

    Turn the power off before starting to avoid accidents and injuries. Determine the center for the fan and adjust the location to best match for the joists. Install the junction box by cutting a large enough hole. Fasten the box to a 2x4-inch header that has been nailed between the joists.

    To assemble the fan, install the hanger pipe, which is placed in a hole over the motor. The wires run through the center. Tighten securely to keep the pipe in place. Attach the fan blades on a stable surface.

    To mount the fan to the box, install the hanger bracket on the box with screws and lock with washers. Washers are important as they prevent vibrations of the fan from loosening the screws. Wire the unit and place the ceiling cover back in place. Connect the black house wires to the black fan wires and the white house wires to the white fan wires. Ground the fan and bind the wiring with a nut.

    Finally, attach to the joists and install molding. Turn the power back on and enjoy cool indoor temperatures at a much lower cost.

  • Arts & Crafts: Summer Garden Party Decor

    Warm weather and cool evenings make the perfect setting for an outdoor garden party. Arts and crafts aficionados can also use the opportunity to create some creative touches for summer gatherings. From decorations to invitation cards, here are arts and crafts projects that will add a fun and stylish look to your next party.

    Invitations: Create floral invitations to your garden party even if you are just inviting a few people. Tailor the cards based on your level skill, whether that means starting with a completely blank postcard, to buying pre-designed packs and adding small personal touches.

    Make a sign that describes your theme: Print out individual letters or words and use paint, markers, or stencils to make the sign as simple or colorful as you like.Garden Party Table Setting

    Statement drinkware: Reinvent your plain drinking glasses into chic statement pieces by taping off the bottom of each glass and sticking dots toward the bottom. Cover the mouth and top portion of the glass with plastic to protect it when spray painting the bottom portion in a gold, or another color of your liking. If spray paint isn’t easily accessible, use glitter to cover the stemware of the glasses. You may want to designate each guest a different color.

    Creative cooler: Instead of pouring ice into a cooler, use balloons as ice packs. Choose 2-3 colors that match the theme you are going for and fill the balloons about ¼ of the way with tap water. Freeze them overnight and use the colorful frozen balloons to keep your drinks cool.

    Centerpieces: No garden party is complete without summer-inspired centerpieces. Arrange seasonal flowers in mason jars, or fill plant pots with fruit such as lemons, oranges, or grapefruits. Use the leaves to add contrast to the color of the fruit.

    Signature Drink: Take your craftiness to a whole new level by creating a signature drink or mocktail. Use petals, leaves, fruit, and other colorful elements to compose a drink that looks like a visual masterpiece.

  • Weekend Warrior: Getting the Pool Back in Shape for Summer Fun

    It’s time you got your pool ready for splashing about. But getting it ready is not just about taking the cover off. You will need to clean the water, wash the various pool surfaces, reassemble the pumps and filters, and make sure that they are sturdy enough to last the summer season. While this may seem like a lot of work, the health and safety of your family depends on how well you maintain your pool.

    Here are some guidelines for getting your pool back in shape for summer fun:

    Remove the Leaves and Debris

    Use a leaf rake to scrape the surface of the cover clean of dried and dead leaves, and other debris.

    Remove the Top Cover

    With the cover of the pool clean, it’s time to remove it. Removing the top cover of the pool is a delicate task. There may be molten ice or snow on the cover, which will first need to be pumped out so that it does not run into the pool and dirty it. Use a small cover pump for the job. Once the cover is clean, remove it by fan-folding it in into folds not more than five feet wide. Make sure to clean and dry it before stowing it away.

     Check the Water’s ConditionPool in Backyard

    After lying unused for several months, the pool might have gathered debris, leaves, and algae. Check the water and the water level. Cloudy water means that there is still dirt and debris in the pool. Use a leaf rake- or bag-type skim net to skim the surface of the water and also scoop up the dirt and debris from the bottom of the pool. Look carefully to ascertain if there are silt deposits in the pool. Also check the walls to see if algae and moss are clinging to these surfaces. You will need to vacuum the floors and walls to ensure that these dirt particles do not end up in the filtration system to clog it up.

    Check the Filtration System

    You might need to change the sand or the cartridge. Put the filter valve in the filtering mode, adjust all the pipes, and start filtering.

    Tighten the Pipes

    After you reassemble the unit for the summer, make sure that all the pipes are tight and no screw loose or sticking out. Do not tighten too much.

    Check the Chemical Balance of the Water

    First check the alkalinity of the water. The ideal value should be anything between 80 and 120 parts per million (PPM). The pH level should be ideally between 7.4 and 7.6. After correcting the alkaline and pH levels, add chlorine to the water. Make sure that you also check that the Cyanuric acid levels do not drop below the recommended amount.

  • Arts & Crafts: Give Your Home a Facelift with Creative Décor

    Giving your home a summer-appropriate facelift does not require a ton of time or money. Instead, creativity and the ability to complete a few craft projects are important elements of sprucing up your home décor. Here are a few ways to freshen up the rooms in your home:

    1. Paint just one wall in a room in a focal color, or paint a contrasting rectangle above a sofa to use as a gallery space. You may also try painting the ceiling a lighter version of the wall color, or painting the insides of bookshelves in an unexpected color.
    2. Work with what you have - in a different way. Take down all paintings and artwork. Move them around to different walls or rooms. You would be surprised how the same items in different areas can transform the house.
    3. Frame moldings can give a plain wall or hallway an instant paneled look.
    4. Retile the kitchen backsplash. You may only need a few square feet of tile, so consider splurging for a fancy style if the budget permits. Or, use plain porcelain tile for most of the surface and then mix in a few hand-painted or high-end tiles as accents.Woman Painting a Wall
    5. Paint a trio of terra cotta pots in coordinating colors. Plant herbs or flowers and line the pots up on the kitchen windowsill.
    6. Use upholstery tacks to add some flair to a plain piece of wood furniture. Insert them along the lines of a table, bench, or chair for an eye-catching accent.
    7. Use a simple bath mat, turn it vertically, and use it as hanging wall art.
    8. Remove the doors on a bank of upper cabinets for instant open shelving. For a colorful touch, arrange 2-3 single step vases on the shelves.
    9. Have unused or old rhinestone necklaces sitting in your jewelry box? Use them to make curtain tiebacks for a bohemian-inspired look.
    10. Use jute rope to add a nautical touch to window dressings.
    11. Tie shower curtains on with bows instead of metal rings for a feminine and classic touch.
  • Weekend Warrior: Update Your Laundry Room in Two Days

    The laundry room is one of the most used spaces in any home, but it usually does not get the love, attention, or remodeling budget that other rooms do. But if you have a spare weekend, the space can be updated to look and feel newer and more functional than its current state.Woman Doing Laundry in Her Laundry Room

    Cleaning is the first step. Remove everything from the room and wipe down all the surfaces. Dispose of clutter that does not support the function of the room. Once the room is clean and empty, you can start working to give it some updates.

    One or two coats of paint can give the room a brand new look, especially if you plan to go with a completely different color palette. If you feel white walls are too boring, try a light gray instead. Or if the room feels small because of dark paint, use a more neutral color. Painting does not stop at your walls – you can also repaint cabinets. Go with a color that works well with the walls to create a unified look but still contrasts nicely.

    Assess the amount of storage space and look for ways to add shelves or bins to reduce the amount of clutter. The less clutter, the more visually appealing the room becomes. Clutter also makes laundry feel more like a mentally burdensome task. In addition to shelves and bins, think outside the box and use items you may already have in the garage. For example, an unused table can be repainted and work as a folding table.

    If the lighting fixtures are old or have a dated look, replace them with modern fixtures such as a chandelier or lantern light. An alternative cost-effective option is to spray paint the old fixtures with white or metallic paint for an updated look. Adding brighter light bulbs will make the room feel more spacious.

    Decorate the laundry room to complete the update. For example, add a cushy rug, stencil words on the wall, place fresh flowers on the counter, use colorful mason jars as accessories, add a pretty curtain, or all of the above!

  • Safety & Sanitation: Best practices for Using Power Tools around the House

    Using a variety of power tools around the house may be a norm for various projects. During the summer months, family and friends are likely roaming into your project area. To ensure that you and others stay safe at all times, there are some very basic steps to ensure safety.

    1. Use the right tools for the job – Misusing a power tool is hazardous. If you are unsure if a tool would work for a job, always err on the side of caution.
    1. Read the instructions carefully – While tool operation may seem obvious, it is still best to read the instructions. Various models have different specifications and variations can result in different risks.
    1. Keep fingers away from the power switch - Most power tools are designed so that they don't turn on accidentally. However, take care not to accidentally press the on/off switch while handling these tools. For example, when transporting a tool from one place to another, make sure that your fingers aren't positioned near the power button. If a safety lock is available, it should be engaged when the tool is not in use.
    1. Disconnect power tools when not in use – Some people keep their power tools plugged in at all times. When they need to use them, they don't have to worry about plugging them in again. But power tools should be disconnected when not in use. When unplugged, power tools can't accidentally turn on and cause injuries.Man Using Power Tools
    1. Never carry a tool by the cord - Do not swing them around by the cords either.
    1. Inspect tools on a regular basis - When a power tool is damaged, it can be dangerous. If a power tool isn't inspected regularly, dangerous damages can go unnoticed. A damaged cord with small nicks can easily be covered with electrical tape. If a deep cut or tear occurs on a cord though, the cord should be replaced. Power tools should be inspected prior to every use. Tools not used regularly should be inspected every few months.
    1. Protect your eyes - Regardless of the type of work being performed, the eyes should be protected at all times. Power tools stir up a lot of dust and debris. Tools like drills and chainsaws can cause objects to fly loose. It's not uncommon at all for objects to fly directly into a person's eyes when power tools are being used. For safety, use impact-resistant safety glasses. These heavy-duty glasses will eliminate the risk of foreign objects getting into the eyes.
    1. Store Power Tools Where Children Can't Access Them - Power tools should never be left out, even if they are going to be used again the very next day.
    1. Work in a safe environment - This means a workspace with adequate lighting. In dim conditions, it is all too easy to make a wrong move that can cause a serious injury. Power tools should never be used in damp or wet conditions. One of the biggest risks involved in using a power tool is electrocution, which is why these tools need to be kept away from wet, damp conditions at all times.
  • Weekend Warrior: Easy Home Office Makeover Ideas

    Working from home allows individuals the flexibility of completing tasks at their own pace, take breaks without being judged, and wear informal attire if desired. But it’s not all fun and games. Distractions at home may be just as plentiful as distractions in a corporate office. Working alone may also mean more clutter since there is no one around to impress.

    Giving the home office a fresh look can be done within a weekend – even for beginner DIYers. A fresh coat of paint can completely update the look of a space, and is very easy to do. Here are other easy ways to update a home office during the course of a weekend.

    • As obvious as it may seem, clearing out the clutter can do wonders to updating the look of a home office. Chances are the space will look bigger and brighter. Start with the desk, move on to the bookshelves, and remove miscellaneous or unnecessary objects that do not belong in an office.
    • Rearrange the furniture to maximize outside views. The room will feel bigger and brighter.Man Working in His Home Office
    • If the office space is very small or in the nook of a hallway, tuck a bookshelf into an unused wall for a built-in look. Having a bookshelf will help minimize the amount of objects required on top of the desk, allowing for less clutter.
    • Build or invest in storage. Storage can mean different things to different people depending on the size, location, and layout of the office. Storage bins are great for workers who work with physical products/samples, while corkboards may suffice for those who do not require much paper, books, or items.
    • Adding color to a space can provide much-needed inspiration. Painting one wall in a bright color can add some character to a home office. Purchasing office supplies that add pops of color is also a way to increase visual stimulation. Examples include purchasing a pink stapler, bright pens, or neon penholder. Just make sure to stick to 2-3 main colors that complement each other.
    • Dress the walls up with art that reflects your personality and interests. If art is not appealing to you, choose a few pictures you have taken, get them printed, buy some cool frames, and hang them to add an element of design.
    • Strategically placing a lamp or two around the office will increase the desk-level lighting, while also adding instant style to the room. Whether your taste is modern, kitschy, or traditional, lamps are a great way to give your office a new look.
  • Safety and Sanitation: Car Safety Tips for Summer Road Trips

    Many people consider their vehicle to be a second home during the summer – school is out and vacations or weekend road trips are booked! But with more traffic on the roads and scorching heat bouncing off the asphalt, prepping the car accordingly may save time and money, as well as reduce safety concerns. There are easy and logical ways to prepare the car for summer travel as described below, however take your own situation into account and focus on areas that matter most to you.

    Prepare the Vehicle:Man Driving on a Road Trip

    • Check the car tires, and the spare.
    • Inspect the battery, engine, hoses, belts and fluids for proper levels and to ensure nothing seems too worn. Also ensure the A/C is functioning properly.
    • Test all lights and wipers. Clean the windows – both inside and out.
    • Individuals who do not feel confident with any of the above should consider paying for a quick inspection by a trained technician. Though it will mean an upfront investment, the peace of mind while on the road will be worth it.
    • Keep an emergency roadside kit in the vehicle. The kit should contain jumper cables, a flashlight and extra batteries, extra vehicle fuses, roadside flares, a small tool kit, a blanket, a first aid kit, duct tape, rags, nylon rope, etc. The DMV has a comprehensive list to consider.

    Safety on the Road:

    • Buckle up and make sure passengers also wear their belts.
    • In the event of a flat tire, engine trouble, or a fender bender, drive out of traffic lanes and off the highway, if possible. Use shoulders if it’s a true emergency, but freeway shoulders are generally not safe for repair work.
    • Plan to use a designated sober driver ahead of time.
    • Call 911 if you suspect that a drunk driver is operating another car on the road – signs include weaving/swerving; erratic braking; sudden stops for signal lights and slow starts once they change.

    Focused Driving:

    • Do not text or talk on a mobile phone while driving, even hands-free if possible. Drivers who need to make a call or check their phone should stop in a safe place, such as a rest stop or parking lot.
    • Program the GPS ahead of time, not while driving. Or, have a passenger do it.
    • Rotate drivers to avoid fatigue. It’s best to agree on a schedule ahead of time.
    • Rest if needed. Drowsy driving can be fatal.
  • Safety and Sanitation: Pool and Beach Safety For The Summer

    During summer, water activities usually top the list of must-do activities. A typical day at the beach or pool can be anything but for families who are unprepared. Adults and children who can swim may have better control of their movements in the water, but that does not negate safety concerns associated with pools, lakes, and beaches. Here are several key safety guidelines to consider for summer days spent near the water:

    Choose an area manned by a trained lifeguard. If possible, take extra precaution by staying close to a lifeguard station. It’s unrealistic to expect parents to keep an eye on children 100% of the time, so setting up near a trained professional ensures that someone is scanning the waters and diligently paying attention.

    Consider access to the water. Families looking for hotels, cabins, or beach bungalows over the summer should ask about the ease of water access for children. If a pool is not gated or access to the beach does not have a reasonable level of protection, a different option may be best.Mother and Child at the Beach

    Life vests vs. a flotation device. It’s natural to feel a sense of security if you or a child utilize a flotation device, but items such as rafts and toys can lose air, slip out from under a person, or shift positions. A U.S. Coast Guard approved life vest is the best safety option.

    Consider water currents. Some of the greatest risks at beaches or lakes are rip tides, currents, or channels. Anyone caught in a rip tide should swim parallel to the shore or tread water, but should not fight the current. These precautions are best taught to kids in a hypothetical scenario so they understand how to react if they are caught in water currents.

    Sun safety. Apart from caution in and around the water, overheating and dehydration can occur quickly. Avoid the dangers of high temperatures and humidity by taking a few sips of water every 15-20 minutes.

    Skin safety. Protect skin by choosing a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) that has a physical blocker such as zinc oxide or titanium. Reapply sunscreen every 90 minutes, or immediately after going into the water if the sunscreen is not water-resistant. Use child-specific sunscreens for youngsters.

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