Monthly Archives: January 2015

Basement Dehumifier Basics

When constructed properly and with the appropriate air conditioning and ventilation, a basement should be dry. But many basements are particularly prone to dampness because of their poor design and ventilation. Dampness like this is a perfect breeding ground for mold and mildew, especially in basements where old books, magazines, clothing and suitcases are stored.

When the humidity level goes over 50%, the water vapor in the air can cause furniture to warp, moisture to condense on walls and floors and promote growth of fungus. It will also accelerate wood rot. For those family members with allergies, a basement dehumidifier is crucial to lessen the health risks linked to toxic mold and fungus.

But before you go off to purchase a basement dehumidifier, consider taking some time to investigate the reason behind the high humidity, and then repairing the underlying problems. For example, your basement should ideally be the same temperature as the rest of your house, and not an isolated cool temperature zone. Try adding weather-stripping to any basement doors and windows. If the basement is uninsulated, you’ll have to weigh the costs of adding insulation against that of running a basement dehumidifier.

Buying a basement dehumidifier will require a little planning. Know the cubic footage of the basement space that it will be going into. Also you will need to decide on getting a permanently installed unit versus a portable dehumidifier. An other shopping point is to consider are the size of the unit- will it fit in the space you are planning for it? Also be aware that some models are noisier than others, so ask for a demonstration before you buy.

A dehumidifier works on the same principle that refrigerators and air conditioners do. They pass the humid air over a bank of cold coils and in the process extract a good portion of the moisture via condensation. This condensation drips off the coils into collection pockets inside the dehumidifier. Meanwhile the dry air flow, heated somewhat by the extraction of humidity, is directed out of the unit back into the room.

Since the dehumidifier is in the basement and out of the way, many people forget that it requires some maintenance. It is important to empty and clean the collection container inside the unit periodically, otherwise it will be prone to bacterial growth. Some companies manufacture basement dehumidifiers which have no inner collection container, but simply a hose that can be run to a floor drain, and these are a perfect solution to the problem.

Countertops 101 – Deciding on Your Kitchen Countertop Materials

For many, their kitchen is the most important room in their house. And most real estate experts agree that the best way to improve or raise the property value of a house is to remodel the kitchen. The four major components of a kitchen remodel usually involve replacing the major appliances, installing new floors, replacing or re-facing the kitchen cabinets, and installing a new countertop. Let’s focus on that final component – replacing your current kitchen countertop material with a new one.

Naturally, it involves more than just running off to the store to pick out a new countertop for your kitchen. You will first need to consider how much you want to spend. You also need to think about how much time and effort you’ll need to spend to maintain your new countertop. Finally, you’ll want to seriously consider the style and look you want in your kitchen. Whatever type of countertop you install, it will be the focal point of the entire room.

The very first type of countertop that pops into the mind of every anxious kitchen renovator is granite. However, there are many countertop materials to choose from – and granite is only one of them. These days, a kitchen remodeling hopeful can select tile, stone, acrylic, concrete, stainless steel, and laminate, even wood!

GRANITE
Let’s start with the most popular: granite. Granite countertops are the most popular but also the most expensive. Why? Besides the beautiful surface, granite is extremely heat and scratch resistant. A granite countertop is very durable and will last a long time. A granite countertop will never go out of style and granite slab installation will greatly increase the value of the house. The drawbacks? Other than the expense, granite is a natural stone and it is porous. A sealer will be required to prevent staining. One alternative is to use granite tiles in place of a massive slab. The cost savings on the tiles is high. It is important to not use the granite surface as a cutting board as it will dull the finish (and ruin a knife or two.)

OTHER NATURAL STONES
Besides granite, there are other various stone surfaces that can be used on kitchen counters. Quartz, marble, limestone, soapstone, and slate surfaces are very popular today. Marble is smooth and cool, perfect for food preparations directly on the surface. It’s not as durable as granite and requires more sealing maintenance to protect from staining. Slate is very durable and has such a unique surface that it can really stand out in a kitchen. As slate has been used as a roofing material, it doesn’t require as much sealing protection, but some upkeep is still needed. Limestone is very porous and spills must be treated quickly to prevent staining. It has a natural, weathered look that can deepen and darken over time. Natural quartz has a look similar to slate but does not stain or scratch as easily. Engineered quartz has been gaining popularity as well, but the costs are considerably more (engineered materials are a quartz composite product mixed with epoxy, polymers, and small stones or pebbles for a unique look and feel.)

TILE
Glazed ceramic and porcelain tile has been popular in kitchens for decades. It comes in a huge variety of colors, shapes, and designs. The tiles can be a small as a square inch and as large as six square inches. The tiles are durable and also have some of the same heat and scratch resistance qualities as granite. The porcelain tiles are usually more expensive than the ceramic tiles, but the porcelain tiles are more durable and the hardest fired type of tiles. Drawbacks of tile? It can chip easily, more expensive than laminate alternatives, and the grout can be an issue. When putting the tiles together, there are grout lines between each of them and grout can stain very easily. It will require a lot more maintenance to keep it looking good. Because of the grout issues, the ability for the tiles to break and chip easily, and the overall cost, it is best to leave the installation work to a professional.

CONCRETE
Concrete is not only for sidewalks or driveways. A concrete countertop is pigmented and can be polished into a smooth and shiny surface that can resemble any natural stone. The counters can be molded in a factory or cast on site. Concrete is rather porous and needs to be regularly sealed, similar to granite, to resist stains. It can be made into any shape and have any thickness. Concrete is also heat and scratch resistant. The counters can be made in a variety of colors and textures. Drawbacks on concrete? The sealer that is required is not the only protection needed. The sealer needs to be waxed every one to three months to prevent stain and water damage, so maintenance can be extensive. You cannot cut on the concrete surface without leaving marks. Concrete is also very expensive.

STAINLESS STEEL
A restaurant would probably be the first thing one would think of when it comes to a stainless steel kitchen counter. But there is a reason most restaurants use this material. Durability, stain and water resistance, low maintenance, a myriad of size and shape choices are just a few of those reasons. It’s also very easy to clean and you can put a hot plate or pan on the surface without worry of damaging it. Drawback – many don’t like the “industrial” look of it. It can be rather expensive to have made. Cutting on it can leave marks and it can be easy to dent. It’s important to make sure the surface is at least 18 gauge and has eight to ten percent nickel in it.

WOOD
Sometimes called Butcher Block Countertops, a wood counter is usually made from strips of maple or oak that has been glued together. But just about any hardwood can be made into countertops. Bamboo countertops are the latest trend! Wood counter material has a warm, beautiful look that can come in a variety of shades and textures. It’s perfect for people who want to cut directly on the surface of their counter. It can be sanded and resealed in the event of any deep cuts, scratches or stains. It can be easy to install and the prices are reasonable. Drawbacks? Wood is not very hard and can easily burn, scratch, or dent. The wood can warp or turn black near sinks from regular water contact. And it requires regular sealing.

LAMINATE
Formica is the most common name for laminate counters. It’s made of a thin layer of plastic glued to particleboard or wood. Plastic laminate counters are very inexpensive, lightweight, and available in an endless supply of colors and patterns. It is very stain-resistant and, as a plastic material, it is easy to clean. Because it comes pre-formed, it can be easy for a do-it-yourselfer to install. Drawbacks to Formica? While these counters are somewhat durable, they do not last forever. Laminates are not heat or scratch resistant but they are stain resistant. Abrasive cleaners can dull and scratch the surface. Warping or water spots occur with excessive exposure to moisture. The color or pattern can fade with time.

ACRYLLIC/SOLID SURFACE
Solid surface counters are manufactured tops that are custom-made for any application. Popular companies include Corian, Avonite, and Swanstone. These surfaces are durable, water resistant, easy to clean, non-porous, and are even resistant to mold and bacteria. And nicks or scratches can be sanded away. Drawbacks include problems handling hot pans on the surface, high expense, and the excessive weight requires a good strong cabinet base (similar to natural stone.) Some do not like the plastic or “fake” look of the material, but the material does have a wide range of colors to choose from.

Replacing the kitchen countertops is only one step in your goal to renovate the kitchen, but it is considered the biggest step by many. You can really make a statement about your kitchen and your home with the right selection of countertop material.  Of course, once you take care of those worn out counters that came with the home, it will really make those old cabinets, flooring, and appliances stand out! It’s all just part of the process of increasing the value of your property.

Part of the information in this article was given to us by Kitchen Cabs Direct in New Jersey.

Home Improvements – The Fun Stuff

The first thing to plan for in home improvements is the practical stuff. The second thing you need to talk to family members about is the fun stuff.

Most people have colors they like and colors they don’t like. They have things that interest them and things that don’t. Get your family to talk to you about those things. Each person’s bedroom, or bedroom area, should reflect his or her taste and interests. A boy who likes green, football, and backpacking can easily have a sage green (it “reads” as more neutral than many shades of green if re-sale of your home is a concern) room with cream woodwork, cream interior shutters, and cream ceiling. Framed football posters and wilderness scenes might be pleasant. Bedding with a rustic motif (rows of stylized pine trees?) from L.L. Bean or Plow and Hearth would work right in. Add a touch or two of a bright color like red or yellow.

Does he need a desk in his room? A chest of drawers? A bookcase? Would he enjoy having a bulletin board? Even if they’re small, most rooms need at least three lamps so that illumination is general and even. The shades are usually best in warm, neutral colors. (Light coming through green shades tends to make people look sick.) Lamp shades should be level and the seams should be toward the wall so they’re not visible. When the bottom edge of most lamp shades in a room are the same height from the floor, the room tends to look serene and cohesive.

Hanging pictures usually look best if the bottom edges of the frames are the same height from the floor and level with each other, too. There are exceptions to this and every generalization of course. A grouping of pictures can have the bottom tier follow the “rule” while all of the other pictures are higher. A picture over a fireplace often looks good higher than the other pictures in the room.

Pictures usually look best when they have a relationship to furniture or an architectural feature. Pictures centered over a chest, bed, bookcase, or fireplace are good examples. Pictures don’t tend to look good if they’re scattered willy-nilly around a room, or if they’re up near the ceiling (unless they’re part of a grouping), or if the height at which they’re hung varies wildly with no rhyme nor reason.

A girl who loves pink, the ballet, and swimming can have woodwork the same cream as her brother’s while her walls are a soft pink (a pink with a hint of yellow in it tends to go well with cream), and her art work reflects her interests. If she loves to read, make sure she has a good reading lamp near her bed, or near a comfortable chair, or both.

A cream colored dust ruffle with widely spaced pink stripes and a quilted plaid coverlet in pink, green, yellow, and blue on a cream background might look nice. Add cream fabric window shades with large pink polka dots and I’ll bet she’ll smile.

The bigger point is to simply have fun with some of your home improvements. There is no need to look exclusively at practical matters.

Asphalt Paved Driveways

asphalt_driveway_homeAsphalt paved driveways are extremely popular and the most cost effective to install over most other driveway options. Hiring the right asphalt paving contractor however can sometimes be a challenge. If the paving contractor installs the asphalt driveway correctly the driveway should last 25-30 years with only minor maintenance.

Unlike concrete, an asphalt paved driveway is both strong and flexible and is ideal for colder temperature zones where constant freezing and thawing occur.

Asphalt paving, also known as Hot Mix Asphalt paving, consists of an aggregate of stone and sand mixed with liquid asphalt cement. The aggregate is carefully mixed and heated prior to being mixed with liquid asphalt. The mixture needs to be delivered to the job site hot else your newly paved driveway will not cure properly.

In order to ensure a quality paved driveway it is critical that the paving contractor first properly prepare the driveway for the Hot Mix Asphalt. Preparation includes removing topsoil or clay type soil and replacing it with a sub-base layer of crushed stone and gravel.

A typical asphalt paving job consists of the application of two layers of Hot Mix Asphalt over the sub-base layer. In some cases a paving contractor may suggest a full-depth asphalt application. This type of application is best if very heavy vehicles will be regularly parked on the driveway. With a full-depth asphalt application the entire driveway, including the gravel sub-base layer, is constructed using liquid asphalt cement. By additionally binding the sub-base gravel layer with the liquid asphalt cement a much stronger paved driveway is created.

When hiring any contractor you should plan on getting 3-4 quotes to get the best comparison of workmanship and price. Talk with friends and family members, as well as search the yellow pages or the internet to find local paving contractors in your area.

With any contractor you hire, make sure they are insured and bonded to protect you from any liability as well as to protect you from any sub-par performance on the contractor’s behalf.

Lead times for paving a driveway can be up to several weeks, so plan appropriately when talking with your prospective paving contractors.

In order to obtain accurate quotes from the asphalt driveway paving contractors it is best to have a sketch of the home and the desired driveway footprint. You should also walk the site with the paving contractor and have him or you stake or paint lines where the paved driveway is to lay.

When talking to the prospective paving contractors make sure the subject of installing proper slopes and drainage is discussed. Otherwise you may wind up with water pooling on the finished driveway, or even worse, draining into your garage or home.

It is also critical that during the installation of all the various layers to the driveway that they are each compacted prior to the installation of the next layer of material. Quoted depths should be after compaction, not before.

Also, if there are any municipal pipes that need to be raised to the finished height of the driveway, find out if the paving contractors’ quotes include performing this task.

In addition, confirm that the contractor will remove and reinstall any type of gate or door to the new finished level of the paved driveway.

With these few basic tips you are on your way to hiring the right paving contractor for your driveway.

For more information on hiring any type of contractor, check out Contractor Match, a website where homeowners and commercial businesses can link up with contractors.

How To Choose Fine Linens For Your Home

Nothing changes the look of a bedroom quicker than a fresh set of bed linens. If you have a bathroom “en suite” it’s also easy today to find coordinating bath linens to match the bedroom linens. Today it’s fun to mix and match linens, and many designers have their own design lines that mix florals with stripes and geometrics. Choosing fine linens for your bed and bath can be initially costly, but as with any purchase of quality made items you will enjoy fine linen sheets and towels for years to come.

 

True linen, which is stronger than any other natural fiber has actually been dated back to the stone age. It has also been found that the linen wrappings from Egyptian mummies are still pliable, thousands of years later. The more linen is used the softer it becomes. It can absorb up to 20% of it’s weight in moisture before it feels damp and air drys quickly. An Irish linen tea-towel can last five to seven or more years, depending on the amount of use. Linen will dry and shine your glasses superior to that of cotton or any other blend. Flax linen is also non-allergenic.

When choosing sheets for your bed you will want to keep in mind thread counts. The higher the thread count the more luxurious and smoother feel the sheet will have. High thread count sheets are also more durable than sheets with low thread counts. High quality linen sheets can last up to twenty ears. As mentioned above, linen sheets will soften with use.

When looking for blankets for your bed you may want to choose a wool blanket for winter and a thermal blanket for spring, summer and fall use when there tends to be warm and cool nights. Thermal blankets are comfortable in warm weather. Wool which can be very light weight and dense is also extremely warm.

Flannel sheets come in all types of colors and designs and are favored by many for comfortable cold weather sleeping. 100% cotton well made flannel sheets will “puff up” after washing feeling softer with each washing.