For the first time “want-to-be” homeowner, purchasing an unfinished new home maybe just the answer. With mortgage interest rates still at record lows, there has not been a better time to purchase a home in decades. However, home prices have dramatically risen over the past several years, and even with low interest rates, for some the dream of owing one’s own home has still remained out of reach.
Purchasing an unfinished home can save tens of thousands of dollars, thus enabling some prospective homeowners the opportunity to buy a house that they may not have otherwise afforded. Unfinished homes are particularly attractive to young couples with no children and who have limited financial resources. The unfinished home concept allows the young couple to grow/finish the home as their family and financial resources do. In addition, if the new homeowners are willing to put in sweat equity they can save significantly on finishing the home.
Typically an unfinished home has a completed kitchen, living room, bath, and at least one bedroom. This is pretty much required by mortgage lenders and building inspectors as the home would otherwise be considered unacceptable for living standards. In many two story unfinished homes, the entire upstairs maybe left unfinished.
When purchasing an unfinished home there are a few items to consider first, such as; what is the expected timeline for finishing the house, what is the expected completed floor plan and who will complete it. All these questions should be answered prior to signing a Purchase and Sales agreement. For example, if more bedrooms will be required prior to when the homeowner anticipates finishing the home, then an unfinished home purchase may not be the right solution. Secondly, ask the builder/prior homeowner for a copy of the floor plan of the completed home. Usually a builder/prior homeowner has these, and it will help immensely when the time comes to complete the unfinished space. Changes to these floor plans are typically feasible, however, it is important to talk with the building inspector prior to beginning the project. Also, in the case of new construction, you may want to negotiate with the builder to complete a portion of the unfinished area, such as the rough framing, electric or plumbing. Finally, you need to determine who will complete the work and assess how much, if any, sweat equity you are willing to contribute. In either case, building permits will need to be pulled prior to any work.
Purchasing an unfinished home can be the means to fulfilling the American dream. For many, it is also a way to buy a larger home, once completed. For others, it enables them to not sacrifice quality in their initial home purchase. Whatever the reason, the purchase of an unfinished home has traditionally been an excellent investment.
Thursday, February 24, 2005
For the first time “want-to-be” homeowner, purchasing an unfinished new home maybe just the answer. With mortgage interest rates still at record lows, there has not been a better time to purchase a home in decades. However, home prices have dramatically risen over the past several years, and even with low interest rates, for some the dream of owing one’s own home has still remained out of reach.
Posted by TheBuilder at 2:32 PM
Thursday, February 17, 2005
When installing a Fiberglass Bath and Shower Unit there are a couple of tips that can help ensure a quieter and better looking finished bathroom.
Use insulation as a noise filter to deaden the sound of falling water. First, lay R11 (3.5" thick) insulation on the floor where the Bath and Shower unit will be installed. This is particularly important for upstairs bathrooms. Second, hang R11 or R21 (5.5" thick) insulation between the wall studs where the Bath and Shower unit will rest up against. Future slumbering occupants of neighboring bedrooms will thank you.
For ensuring 90 degree finished sheetrocked walls and corners near the Bath and Shower Unit use strips of asphalt shingles. Normally the Bath and Shower Unit is secured with Nails or Screws near the edge of the unit. The thickness of the Unit is approximately 1/8 inch thick. By using narrow strips of Asphalt shingles you can help smooth the transition from the edge of the Unit to the surrounding Stud edge surface, thus creating a more finished wall appearance when the sheetrock is applied.
Posted by TheBuilder at 7:23 AM
Wednesday, February 16, 2005
As I sit on a plane in route from Chicago to Boston this evening, I realize I have been staring out into the dark abyss contemplating the arrival of spring. Spring is a time of anticipation and renewed life. A time when the snow finally abates and the Robins return to rebuild their nests. And a time when Tulips and Daffodils emerge from the ground and bloom, if ever so briefly. It is also a time for the voracious Black Fly that we northern dwellers know only too well. For me, however, it is a time to shift into a higher gear; there are outdoor projects that have accumulated over the winter months and there is traditional spring tasks that every homeowner is compelled to do.
There are two main questions I debate as I compile my spring “To-Do” list: What to do and when to do it?
As always with a non-vinyl sided house, there is painting. Over the years, I have come to the conclusion it is best to paint a portion of the house each year; one year the clapboards, another year the trim, and maybe in the third year the shutters. I am sure the professional painter would beg to differ with my advice, but hey, not all of us can justify the professional painter every 3-5 years, nor can we dedicate an entire week or two of our spring painting the whole house. I have found it best to do the spring painting as soon as the whether gets above 50 degrees. Any sooner, it is too cold for the paint. Any later, and one has to contend with the other flying insect, the hornet.
Another important job, but not so large in effort, is preparing the lawn for the spring rains. First there is the raking. Then there is the application of the first stage of the four-stage fertilizer process, you know, the one that halts the Crab grass in July and August. Usually every other year there is the additional task of spreading the pest control to prevent grubs and moles. Based on product recommendations and when I actually have time, I do these tasks in mid May.
For those of us with bountiful winter snowfalls, many of us have the unique task of fixing or replacing our mailboxes for hopefully the last time, or at least for the next 12 months. This is particularly an aggravating task as we spend much of the time doing it, cussing under our breath the snow plow operator that we know had pleasure wiping out our mailbox.
Then there is the garden. I am not sure why I still bother. Maybe it is due to a memory of my youth, when I spent two summers working on a farm. It may also be some innate desire to see something grow from nothing, that I had a part in. I think it is the latter, but regardless, every April I go out and till, fertilizer and lime the soil, while I sacrifice my body to the Black flies. By May I begin to plant the Peas, Carrots and Onions. By June I plant the Tomatoes, Peppers and Squash. And by July, I am at war with the local Wood Chuck.
Finally, there is the changing of the machine guards; storing the snow blower away and preparing the lawn mower, or in my case lawn mowers. I have the sit-down one for the main course, and a push one for the dessert. As my father-in-law always insists, sharpen the blades before the start of the cutting season and then a couple of more times throughout the summer. Well, being non-retired, I am satisfied sharpening them once before the cutting season begins and I have yet to see any ill side effects.
I see the lights of Boston approaching in the distance. My flight is almost over; however my spring list is nearly complete. I am sure I have missed a few items, but my wife will surely remind me. I look forward to the warmth of spring, but as I look down at my list, I think, I’ll just sit back and savor the final weeks of winter.
Posted by TheBuilder at 10:31 AM
Saturday, February 12, 2005
Lake Home - Front
Many of us dream about owning the vacation home in the Mountains, or on the Lake or Ocean. A place where one can retreat periodically from the hustle-bustle of everyday life. However, for those who do achieve the financial resources to make such a purchase, there are several factors that should be considered first prior to taking the plunge.
Owning a Vacation Home can be a wonderful experience, but it is a huge commitment and responsibility. When one first thinks of owning a Vacation Home, we think of only the positives, such as a quiet remote location where we can get away from it all. A place where we can swim, fish, hike, and ski. Unfortunately for many, they forget about the other realities: location and travel time, upkeep and the associated costs, high property taxes, their children’s school and other home activities, guests. All of these put stress on the new Vacation Home owner, and how they prepare ahead of time to address these issues determines how enjoyable their new purchase will be.
The first item to consider when purchasing a Vacation Home is location. Is it near enough from your main home such that you can enjoy it regularly enough? If not, consider another investment. The last thing you want to do is make a huge investment in property that you can not regularly enjoy. Though real estate has always been considered a good investment it is not considered liquid, and expensive vacation homes can take a long time to sell.
Cost of upkeep and property taxes should also be heavily considered. Maintaining a vacation home is not cheap and the local town officials love to hit the vacation homes hard with property tax bills.
One also needs to consider his or her own weekend responsibilities and those of their children. Sports team events, clubs and organizations as well as maintaining the main house will eat into the time available to head to the weekend get-away. And if you have teenagers, they have their own dates and plans. Be prepared, more times than not, for having to forgo the weekend retreat for your children and other responsibilities.
One of the other aspects of owning a Vacation Home is having guests. This is a double edge sword. You want to have guests to share in your retreat. However, the upkeep, food and cooking can become overwhelming. Also, when guests visit, they are on vacation, but you may not necessarily be. It is important to let friends and families understand this, otherwise prepare for unexpected meals outs and other activities.
Owning a Vacation Home can be, and is for most, a wonderful experience. Those who truly enjoy them, usually have to go thru an adjustment cycle. First the euphoria phase, followed by a frustration and exhaustion phase, and finally the true enjoyment stage. The enjoyment phase occurs when one has developed a balance between the pros of owning a vacation home and the other responsibilities of their lives.
Lake Home - Waterfront
Lake Home - Back
Posted by TheBuilder at 9:04 AM
Friday, February 11, 2005
I recently finished a basement, which included a bathroom. I needed to remove a section of concrete for the plumbing. It was a messy and hard job for a homeowner, but I found I was able to complete the job in a day. To have hired a contractor to do this I would have spent $1,000.
I first had the plumber come in and mark where he wanted the floor removed. I then rented a saw built for cutting cement from a local hardware store.
Prior to the actual cutting, I prepared the surrounding area by tacking up plastic walls. Note that it is critical when doing this job that you ensure good ventilation, because it will get extremely dirty and dusty. Also have eye and ear protection as it becomes difficult to see and the saw is extremely loud.
I did not run water over the area prior to cutting, as the saw did not require it, however you may want to consider using some. As a result of not using it, I had dust everywhere: Basement, 1st floor, and 2nd floor. The wife was not happy.
Once you have cut the sections, use a sledge hammer to break up the concrete and remove it. In my case, I had to install a 32 gallon pump up container. The size of a trash can. You will need to dig down at least 28" such that the top of the pump up system is only a few inches above the finish floor grade. It is preferable to get it down to grade level.
Posted by TheBuilder at 12:36 PM
Installing Trim around a Window provides the finishing touch to complementing the window and its associated drapery.
Trim installation is not too difficult for a homeowner to do, as long as he or she has the right tools. I highly recommend the use of a Mitre Saw and Nail Gun. In addition, you will also need a level, square, tape measure, pencil, shims, wood or caulk filler, and a center punch.
For trim material, it somewhat depends on the material of the window itself and what look you are trying to achieve with the finished work. I will focus my instructions on Trimming out a basic double-hung window. I will also discuss a couple of Trim-out options. Typically material required includes: Window Casing, Stool (the Sill material), and 1”x N” Select quality boards. I typically use pine if I am painting the Trim, however you can also use Pine, or other materials such as Poplar, Oak, or Maple if you plan on staining the wood or putting on a clear finish.
The first thing to do is to look at the installed window and see if the Window Jams extend out all the way so that they are flush with the finished wall surface. If they do, then the job has just gotten easier. If they do not, then you will need to rip/cut strips of 1”x N” boards in widths that will Extend the Jams out flush with the finished wall surface. Typically I install the top piece first, followed by the sides. Note: shims, or blocks of wood may be necessary to bring the extension jam out such that it is flush with the original jam.
If you do not plan on having a Window Sill, and instead want a finished window look that resembles a Picture frame, then you do not need to add an extension jam to the bottom section of the window. If you do want the Picture Frame Trimmed out look, then go ahead and add the bottom extension jam. However, when installing this jam, make sure the top surface of it is at the finished height you want to see. Typically you want this extension jam to sit about ¾” higher than the bottom of the window when it is closed. This creates a type of pocket for the window to sit against. Note: Filler blocks of wood may need to be inserted underneath the extension jam to raise it up.
Stool (Window Sill)
The stool is required if you want a window sill. Stool is sold in various widths. I typically use a 4” wide stool. Cut a length of stool such that it extends beyond both sides of the window sufficient enough to include the Window Casing trim, plus1”. This extra inch will allow the Window Casing to rest on the Sill and leave room for reveals.
Now measure the length of stool and make a mark in the center of it. Then measure the gap at the bottom of the window, between the two vertical extension jams, and make a center point mark. Next, marry up the marks of the cut Window sill piece and the mark on the window. While holding the Sill steady, draw marks on the sill where the edge of each vertical extension jam intersects its. Next measure the depth of the window to the edge of the finished wall surface. Again, do this near the bottom of the window.
Now use your square to draw straight lines on the sill piece that are in-line with the marks that you made. These lines should be perpendicular to the length of the Sill.
Now measure in from the back side of the sill (the side that will touch the window) and near the ends, the depth of the window that you previously measured. Make two marks about 2” to 3” apart. Use a straight edge to draw a line, such that it intersects with the other perpendicular line that you drew. Repeat on the other side of the sill. The areas inside these lined boxes will be cut away, leaving with you a large tongue that fits snuggly between the two side jams and with tabs long enough for the casing trim to rest on with margin for reveal.
Slide the sill in between the vertical extension jams and set it at a height, such that the bottom of the sill is flush with the bottom of the window. This will create about a ¾” pocket. The window should sit flush up against the sill edge. Blocks of wood or Shims may be required. Apply nails toward the edge and center of the board. Also apply a single nail into each tab, such that they penetrate into the studs behind the finished wall. The worst is done.
Installing the Finished Casing Trim
On the left hand side of the window, measure from the top of the sill to 3/16” to ¼” up from the bottom surface of the upper extension jam and make a mark. Repeat on the right. Run a level between these two marks and see if they are level. If they are great, and if not adjust one of the marks slightly up or down to achieve level.
Next measure a length of Casing Trim equal to the left hand side measurement, ensuring that you are measuring from the inside surface of the Casing Trim. This mark will represent the Bottom of a 45 degree cut. Do the same on the right side. Cut both pieces using the Mitre Saw.
Now place the left one up on the sill and leave about a 1/8” to 3/16” reveal showing on the vertical extension jam. The sill should extend beyond the casing trim by approximately ½”. Use a level to ensure that the Casing Trim is true vertical and then put two nails in. One at the bottom and one at the top. The nails should be inserted about 1-2” from the vertical ends and about ½” from the outside edge. Repeat this process for the other side.
Next measure at the top of the window the distance between the inside casing trim pieces. Cut an additional piece of Casing Trim, at 45 degree angles, such that the distance between the two inner cuts is equal to the distance between the two already installed vertical casing pieces. The piece should lay snuggly between the two vertical members. Secure it with nails and you are nearly complete. Note: sometimes a small shim will be necessary in the top vertical corners to ensure that the two pieces are flush with each other.
The last piece of Casing Trim that needs to be installed sits under the stoop. Again, measure the length of stoop and subtract 1”. Cut a piece of Casing Trim this length, however at an angle of 10 degrees on each side. Note the top edge of this piece of Casing trim should be the length of the Sill minus the 1”. Now place this piece of Casing Trim under the Sill, making sure it is centered with the sill, and then nail.
Additional Nails should be installed in each of the boards near the inner and exterior edges of the trim pieces. Nails should be place toward the edges and in the center of the pieces.
Finally, use the center punch and a hammer to sink any nails that may have not already been sunk.
All that is left is to caulk and paint/stain and you are ready for Drapery.
Posted by TheBuilder at 9:52 AM
Thursday, February 10, 2005
Ceramic Tile brings a texture, richness and color to a room that Linoleum has yet to truly mimic. Tile floors can be installed in any room, however they are most frequently seen in Bathrooms and Kitchens. I particularly like them in entryways, where they serve as a transition point from the outside to large carpeted or hardwood floored rooms. They make for easy clean up and are impervious to water damage.
Ceramic tiles come in two basic types. Glazed and Porcelain. Glazed holds up the best for heavy traffic areas and porcelain works well in bathrooms. Porcelain is typically more expensive, so consider your budget and the size of the area you want to tile. Tiles also come in many shapes and sizes. For flooring, however, I would suggest using larger tiles up to 12” x 12”.
For proper installation the base foundation or the underlayment is critical. Typically it consists of ¾” to 1 ¼” of plywood. Tiling over Linoleum or existing tile is also feasible, as long as it is solid. I also recommend when tiling over Linoleum that you first apply ring nails or screws 6” on center over the entire area. Tiles can also be installed directly over Concrete. Make sure in all cases that the floor is level and free of dust and debris prior to installation. There are leveling compounds that you can apply before applying tile if necessary.
Preparing the Site
Before actually installing the tile, it is best to lay it out in the room to see how it will look. Pay close attention to how it runs out toward the walls, in the corners and next to cabinets, tubs and toilets. The trick is to lay the tile out such that stubby tiles do not show up in highly visible spots. Once you have completed this, make two marks with a pencil outlining the most centered tile. These lines should be perpendicular to each other. Also take note of the wall that is most visible from all the others. Now remove the tiles. Next draw or snap a line perpendicular to this wall that is in line with one of the marks you made on the floor. Then, draw a perpendicular line to this first line. This second line should be centered with the first line and fairly in line with the second mark you made on the floor. Once you have completed this task, re-layout some of the tiles along the perpendicular lines and observe if they run out in a way that will limit cutting and stubbed tiles. Once this is completed, remove the tiles and prepare for the actual installation.
Installing the Tile
Again, make sure the area is free of dirt and dust. Next apply the ceramic adhesive or mastic to the flooring, starting in the center, where the two perpendicular reference lines intersect. Apply enough material to cover 6-10 square feet, if no cuts are required. If cuts are required limit the amount of mastic application to about 2-4 square feet. When applying the mastic, first spread it with the flat end of the trowel. Lay it on relatively thick, approximately 1/8” to 3/16”thick. Then turn the trowel around and run the notched edge over it. This creates ridges in the mastic that helps to hold the tile down more securely. The larger the tile, the larger the notches should be. For example, I use a ¼” notched trowel for 12” x 12” tiles.
Note: Only make up enough ceramic adhesive for 30 minutes, as this material has the tendency to harden up rather quickly.
Once the adhesive has been applied, begin installing the tiles working from the center outward. On larger tiles you should back butter them. Basically, apply a thin coating of mastic to the back of the tile prior to laying it on the floor. This will help ensure a good bond.
As you near the walls or edges of cabinets, tubs and toilets, you will need to cut some of the tiles. I highly recommend the use of a Wet-Saw. A Wet-Saw will allow you to make very accurate cuts, both large and small. You will also save money, as you will waste many fewer tiles with bad cuts or broken tiles. Wet-Saws are not that expensive and once you see your finished product you will certainly be installing more tile. Wet-Saws can also be rented as a cheaper alternative.
When applying Tiles, you may want to use Lugs. Lugs are effectively spacers that come in various thicknesses. I typically like to have no more than a ¼” space between the tiles. Employing Spacers will ensure uniformity with your tile spacing.
After the Tile has been completely installed, allow it to sit for 24-48 hours before applying grout and walking on it. Grout comes in many different colors and is very easy to install. Simply mix the grout with water or a special bonding agent and apply with a rubber trowel. Run the trowel on a bias when going over tile corners.
Once the grout has been applied, immediately wipe the tile of excess grout, using a wet sponge and a bucket of water. Wait 30 minutes and again wipe the tiles down of any residual grout. Wait another 60 minutes and repeat. If grout is left on the tiles to dry, you will have a great deal of elbow work scraping it off.
Let the grout sit up for 24 hours and it is ready for use and admiration.
Posted by TheBuilder at 7:59 AM
Wednesday, February 09, 2005
There are a number of siding choices a home owner can consider. My experience has mostly been with clapboard style siding, so my examples and opinions are somewhat limited. But I'll review the types I am familiar with.
Pine Siding: I used this once on one of my homes and sweared that I will never use it again. Within 2 years the clapboards were cupping (curling) and the nails were popping out. By the third year the home owner needed to re-side the house. It is relatively in-expensive in the short term, however you will pay for your decision again within 2-3 years.
Vinyl Siding: Definetly the most popular today. It comes in many colors, textures and guages (thickness of the Vinyl). It is very easy to maintain and is very cost effective. A power spray wash once a year and it looks like new. My only issue with it, is that it still "shines" and is not as durable in high wind locations. If you can live with these issues, then Vinyl siding is a good choice.
Masonite Siding: This has the texture of Cedar or Pine Siding, however a lower cost point than Cedar. If installed correctly I have seen this material wear very well over a 15-20 year period. They key is: Installed correctly. If not installed properly, mositure can seep in, swell the material and eventually lead to rot. Painting every 5 years or so is required.
Cedar Siding: My prefered choice. Cedar holds up well to the environment and provides a level of richness and texture that is still not reproduced with Vinyl siding. It is however, quite a bit more expensive (approximately 2X), and will require painting every 5 years or so.
Posted by TheBuilder at 1:04 PM
If you have been contemplating purchasing a home or putting on that Family Room addition, now is the time. Mortgage Rates are at levels not seen for 40+ years. Today 30 year Fixed Rate Mortgages are below 6%. Lower mortgage rates translate into more purchasing power for you. For example, a $200,000 mortgage at 7% costs $1330.60 per month, where as a $234,500 mortgage at 5.5% costs $1331.47 per month. This means you have $34,500 in more purchasing power for effectively the same cost. Thus, you can build the Family Room or Garage you have been dreaming about at no additional monthly expense. And knowing homes traditionally increase in value, you can be comfortable with your decision, as it is a long term quality investment.
How long these current Mortgage Rates will remain is a big question. However, the Federal Reserve has been ratcheting up short term interest rates fairly regularly over the past 6 months. They are doing this because they believe that the economy is improving and that inflation may soon rear its head again. If inflation does indeed kick up, then both short and long term interest rates will rise. Interest rate hikes can jump rather quickly so trying to time when to get a new mortgage or refinance can be dangerous. To conclude, Mortgage rates have not been this low in 40+ years. If you have been thinking about refinancing and putting on the addition, now is the time.
Posted by TheBuilder at 7:32 AM
Tuesday, February 08, 2005
Transforming your home's basement into a finished space can prove to be very rewarding. Frequently the additional living space is used for a variety of entertainment functions including: Recreation Rooms, Bars, Gyms, Billiard Rooms, Home Theatres and Family Rooms. In addition. Bedrooms and Bathrooms are also incorporated into the floor space. Typically the square foot cost of finishing a basement is significantly lower than other floors within the home.
Planning is critical before starting a Finished Basement project. From a financial standpoint, first determine how big your budget is and how you will finance the project. Will a mortgage be required or can you refinance or obtain a home equity loan?
From the project standpoint, carefully consider what you want to use the space for. As part of this consideration, consider ceiling heights, existing pipes, Oil Tanks, and Heating and Water systems. Also consider lighting. To make a Finished Basement cozy, warm and comfortable, the number and kinds of lights to install is key. In addition, consider natural lighting. Can additional windows be installed and will they be appropriate for the finished space?
Installing a Bathroom in a basement can be a challenge, particularly if a pump-up system is required. It is important you meet with a plumber before you start any work, as they will have many questions and requirements for your bathroom. The most onerous aspect potentially being the removal of some of the cement flooring. This is a very dusty and messy job!
Also consider heating. Does your existing furnace have the capacity to support the additional space? If not, you will need to consider putting in a bigger system or creating a secondary heating system.
Finally, and probably the most important aspect to consider, is dealing with moisture. A finished basement will quickly loose its charm if water problems create mold and mildew. Basement floors and walls should be sealed and insulated to reduce moisture content in the basement. Even with these precautions, a dehumidifier may be required.
Posted by TheBuilder at 11:18 AM
One thing to consider when installing Baseboard trim in a new room is what the finished flooring material will be. If carpet is expected to be the finished surface, then the Baseboard trim should be installed ¼” off the base floor first. To do this, simply cut several shims ¼” in height and rest the Baseboard trim on it prior to nailing. Once the Baseboard trim is secured to the wall remove the shims.
Raising the Baseboard trim is done for a couple of reasons. First, and especially with 4” or narrower Baseboard trim, you want the finished baseboard trim to get full exposure. Carpeting, including the pad, stands as high as ½” to 1” in height. Second, the ¼” space allows the carpet to be tucked under the trim by the carpet installer. This helps keep the carpet secured to the tack strips as well as gives a clean and finished look to the Carpet.
Posted by TheBuilder at 7:06 AM
Monday, February 07, 2005
Over the years I have had to install several new 4x4 mailbox posts. Initially I tried just digging a hole, sliding it in, backfilling it with loose dirt and eyeballing it for straightness.
In recent years I have learned a few techniques for increasing the longevity of the mailbox post and increasing its aesthetic charm. Below are instructions for installing a mailbox post the right way.
First go to your local Home Improvement store and purchase a pre-fabricated pressure-treated 4x4 Mailbox post to your liking. Also pick up an 80lb bag of Sakrete concrete and a 2.5gallon bucket. Next find two stakes about 1.5’ long and two 1”x3” boards about 6’ long. A screw gun and level will also be required. Also locate about a dozen hand size stones.
Once you have identified the location for your mailbox, dig a hole sufficient enough for the 2.5 gallon bucket to sit in comfortably. The bucket should sit approximately 4 inches below the finished grade of the surrounding area.
Now place and center the post in the bucket. Place the stones around the post. This will help to roughly stabilize the post. Then screw one of the ends of the 6 foot long 1x3s to the mailbox post, approximately 3 feet from the base. Repeat this process with the second 1x3 board, however place this board 90 degrees opposite the other. The boards should lead out to the ground. Adjust the boards so that the mailbox post is perfectly vertical. Use the level to confirm that it is. Make sure you put the level on multiple sides of the post to confirm that it is indeed level.
Next pound one of the stakes into the ground about 8 inches from the end of one of the boards. Raise the board up a couple of inches (while keeping the post level) and screw it to the stake. Repeat the process with the other stake and board.
Next empty the contents of the Sacrete concrete into a wheelbarrow. Add about a gallon of water to start and mix thoroughly. Add water as needed until the mixture has the consistency of a thick cake batter. After this is completed poor the mix into the bucket. Fill it right up to the top. Then let the concrete sit up over night.
Once the concrete is hard, back fill the area with topsoil, covering the bucket. Then remove the boards and stakes and apply some grass-seed to the disturbed area. All that is left is to mount the Mailbox to the top of the post and you are in business.
Posted by TheBuilder at 8:46 PM
Repairing a Drywall crack in the ceiling or re-surfacing a portion of it can be done by any homeowner with little effort. First, with a small trowel scrape away any of the loose ceiling texture material around the crack or affected area.
If there are any small cracks observed, after scraping away the loose texture material, apply a thin layer of Joint Compound. A small trowel will aid in this job. Then let the Joint Compound dry. Then sand lightly.
Next, you will want to apply a Textured Ceiling mix that can be obtained at any Home Improvement store. Sometimes the mix is dry and you simply add it to a container of Ceiling paint. Normally for small jobs Home Improvement stores sell a pre-mixed paint/textured substance. Simply spread this over the affected area that you have prepared. Once this material had dried, apply a coat or two of paint that matches the rest of the ceiling and you are done.
Posted by TheBuilder at 7:36 AM
Sunday, February 06, 2005
Changing a water filter, such as an Aqua-Pure from Cuno is relatively simple.
First, make sure no one runs any water while you are changing the filter. Once this has been done, place a small bucket under the water filter and turn the valve to the off position. If there is a purge valve on top of the filter, push on this for a second or two. This will relieve pressure in the filter. Make sure you unscrew the base unit counter-clockwise. It should only be hand tight, though sometimes the water filter manufacture may provide a plastic custom wrench for loosening/tightening it up.
Once the base as been unscrewed, remove the filter cartridge and drain out most of the water. I typically leave a little water in the base so that I can swirl it and remove the majority of the sediment that may be caked in at the bottom. After swirling, drain out the contents into the bucket.
Next carefully remove the O-Ring from the top of the base unit. Clean this off with a rag thoroughly.
Now take a large dry rag or towel and insert it into the base unit. Insert it in a swirling motion so that you can clean the sidewalls of the base unit.
Next smear a little Vaseline all around the O-Ring. This will ensure that the O-Ring moves freely when the base is reattached to the top of the filter unit.
Place the O-Ring back onto the base filter unit. Then insert the new filter cartridge.
Finally, screw on the base filter unit to the top unit. Hand tighten only. Do not over tighten as this could damage the unit or crimp the O-Ring causing a small leak.
Finally, slowly turn the water filter to the on position. If there is a purge valve, pushing on this while turning on the filter may enable the air to escape through the valve. Doing this will eliminate the knocking sound otherwise heard in the pipes until the air is flushed out of them. This will happen with normal use of the water and is of no concern.
Posted by TheBuilder at 9:30 AM
If you really want to do a quality job installing baseboard trim and casing out windows a finish nail gun, with compressor, and a powered Mitre saw are a must. The use of Hammer and finish nails, and a Mitre box are acceptable for the very minor job, but if quality and efficiency are desired then push them aside.
When selecting a compressor determine what projects you may eventually want to use a nail gun on. If you want to do more than finish carpentry, I would recommend a compressor of 150 psi and at least 16 gallons. The larger the capacity of air, the less frequently the compressor will be turning on, thus preserving the life of the compressor motor and your ears.
Regarding the nail gun, there is a different one for each project you could conceive of: e.g. Finish work, Framing, Decking, Roofing.
Likewise on the Mitre saw. Don’t skimp if you expect to do more than finish work with it. Get one that supports at least a 10” blade and preferably bigger. Many of the latest models have laser guides. These are real handy for getting accurate cuts.
In addition to the nail gun, compressor, and Mitre saw, you will also need a tape measure, level, square, center punch, wood filler, and a carpenter’s pencil. Also shims come in handy.
Posted by TheBuilder at 7:01 AM
Silestone is becoming increasingly popular for countertops. Silestone is basically made out of a composite of quartz material. It is typically about 10-20% more expensive than Granite countertops, however it provides a slightly more elegant look. It also comes in about 48 different colors. What makes it rather unique is that the quartz material sparkles providing a glimmering radiance that is unmatched by granite.
Silestone can be used in kitchens, bathrooms, or bars. It can be used on floors and walls and it is widely available. Silestone is available through approximately 3,500 retailers including all EXPO Design Center® stores, Home Depot® locations, e-counters.com.
Though Quartz is a very hard material, cutting on the surface can cause marks. In addition, it is also heat resistance but it is not recommended to place hot pots or pans on. The adhesive material that binds the quartz together could turn color with too much heat.
Silestone is non-porous so it is impervious to stains. It is also an extremely hard material and will have less likelihood of chipping, compared to granite. In addition, unlike granite, periodic sealing is not required.
For more information on Silestone see: www.silestoneusa.com
Posted by TheBuilder at 6:20 AM
Saturday, February 05, 2005
The key to installing a Brick or Paver Walkway is to first properly prepare the area where the bricks/pavers are to be installed. The area should be dug out at least a foot down, removing all topsoil and clay soil.
Once the area has been dug down, 3/4" gravel stone should be laid in and tamped down tightly. Then sand, or stone dust should be spread over the gravel. Again the sand/stone dust should be tamped down. Stone dust is preferred.
Now that you have a stable base, place a 1" pipe or ledger board the length of the walkway on either side of the walkway. Then using a flatedge, e.g. a 2"x4" slide it over the two lengths of the pipe/ledger board. In doing this you will create a level surface area to lay the bricks/pavers.
Now place on the level sand/stone dust strips of plastic brick borders. Install a run on both sides of the prepared area. These strips will act as your walkway border and help to maintain the integrity and shape of the walkway. You can get these plastic strip borders at most Home Improvement stores such as Home Depot or Lowes. The strips should be anchored down with 12" galvinized nails. You should sink these nails into the ground and through the strips every foot.
Once this is done, you can then begin to lay the bricks/pavers. There are many patterns you can lay. I particularly like the Herring Bone pattern. The key to laying the bricks/pavers is to ensure that they interlock with each other. Always stagger adjacent rows of bricks by 1/2 of a brick to interlock them. This will again help maintain the integrity of the walkway.
Inevitably bricks/pavers will need to be cut or split when building the walkway. Unless you want to buy or rent an expensive wetsaw, I would suggest purchasing a simple brick/paver splitter. It is basically a chisel with a wide end that is the width of the bricks/pavers. To actually cut/split the brick/paver, lay it in a bed of sand and place the chisel at a 75% angle over the spot where you want to break the brick. Then using a hammer strike the butt end of the chisel firmly. You may need to do this a couple of times. You may also want to flip the brick/paver over and strike the other side of the brick using the hammer and chisle. Within one or two strikes the brick/paver should break cleanly. If your walkway has curves you will need to buy/rent a wetsaw.
After installing the bricks, build up the outside edges with additional sand, and then shovel in the topsoil and pack down firmly.
Finally, spread stone dust over the new walkway and sweep into the cracks. Repeat this process a couple of times to ensure the cracks are fully filled. This will complete the interlocking of the bricks and help to eliminate any weed growth. Just add grass seed to the outside edges and you should have a beautiful entrance to your home within a couple of weeks.
Planning to have a Brick or Paver Walkway installed by a Landscaping Contractor but not sure what questions to ask to ensure you hire the right one? See HomeAdditionPlus.com's Brick and Paver Walkway Bid Sheet. The Brick and Paver Walkway Bid Sheet will help ensure that your walkway project goes smoothly and you get the finished walkway you are looking for.
Posted by TheBuilder at 8:06 PM
Hanging shelves is a fairly straight forward job. However, if the shelf is to support more than a few pounds you should make sure that you secure the Shelf or Shelf brackets to studs. The studs are the vertical members sitting behind the sheet rock. Typically they are made out of either wood or metal.
The trick is finding the studs. Typically they are on 16" center and can be found using a stud finder (a magnetic device that can identify where the nails are associated with securing the sheetrock to the stud).
Once you have found a stud, measure in increments of 16" the span that you want to have between the shelf brackets. Also measure how high off the floor you want to have the shelf(s) sit. Secure the brackets to the studs via screws or nails. Then secure the shelfs to the brackets. Sometimes the Shelves can be screwed to the brack. Other shelf/bracket combinations have a snap in lock mechansim to ensure the shelf does not fall off the bracket.
Posted by TheBuilder at 1:30 PM
Installing Doors is a relatively easy task. First, I recommend buying pre-hung doors with extention jamps. These are doors that have the trim already attached. When unpackaging the door you will see that the door can be separated into two pieces. The first section you will want to install is the section that contains the door itself.
Place the door into the opening. The rough opening of the doorway should be about 2-3 inches wider than the door frame that you are installing. Then put a 1/8th or 1/4" shim under the door, on the side where the hinges are. This will help in the leveling process.
Put a nail about one foot off the ground on the hinge side. The side that you just shimmed. Do not sink the nail, just in case you have to remove it later when squaring the door.
Then using a level, place it verticly up the side of the door frame that has the hinges. Adjust the door so that the level shows the bubble fully centered in between the two lines of the level. While maintaing this level, put a nail into the door frame about a foot from the top. Again on the hinge side of the door.
Now place the level on top of the door frame and adjust the non-hinge side of the door up or down to get the top of the door level. While maintaing the level position put a nail on the top of the frame about 3 inches from the non-hinge side of the door. Do not sink it.
Finally, place the level on the non-hinge side of the door and adjust the frame so that it is level. Put a nail into the top and bottom of this frame. Do not sink it.
Now try opening and closing the door. It should swing freely and close nicely with about a 1/8 inch gap showing between the door itself and the non-hinge side of the door. If not, you may have to make some minor adjustments. Thats why you don't want to sink these initial nails.
If the door works smoothly then sink these nails and add 2 more nails to each side. You should also ensure that you have 3 nails across the top.
Once this is done, the other half of the door frame (the trim piece for the back side of the door) should slide into the grooves easily of the portion of the door frame that you just installed. Simply sink some nails into this half and you are ready to install the door hardware.
Posted by TheBuilder at 6:33 AM
Friday, February 04, 2005
Last year I needed to make some improvements to my Bathroom, including replacing the flooring. My wife suggested Tiling, however, I was concerned on having to put down an underlayment (such as 1/4" plywood) as well as the tile. Trying to cut all the jogs around the cabinet, closet, toilet and tub would have been extremely difficult.
After a little investigation, I found to my surprise that Tile can be installed right over the Linoleum, as long as you prepare the Linoleum first. Basically, you need to sink 1" to 1.5" screws or ring nails about 6 inches apart into the Linoleum to stabilize the surface. Once this is done, you can lay the tile down using a standard mastic. To date I have had no problems with loose or cracking tiles or grout
Posted by TheBuilder at 3:50 PM
Over the past 20+ years I have been involved with Building homes and additions to homes. I have also completed a variety of projects on existing homes including Framing, Electrical, Plumbing, Deck Building, Tiling, Carpeting, Wallpapering, Laying Brick Walkways, Building Concrete Patios, Insulating, Sheet Rocking, Finish Trimwork, Door Hanging, Window Istallation and Painting.
Specific Projects have included:
- Framing 3 homes.
- Finishing the Upstairs on 2 homes. (Framing, Electric, Plumbing, Sheetrocking, Painting, Finish Trim work)
- Finishing 2 basements (with a Bathroom in one of the Basements). Jobs included Framing, Electric, Plumbing, Sheetrocking, Finish Trimwork, Installing Doors and Windows, Painting, putting in Stairs, etc.)
With this Blog Site, I will provide helpful hints on performing many of the tasks necessary in making home improvements to your house.
If you have particular questions related to a Home project that you are considering, please comment on my site, and I will attempt to offer some sage advice.
Posted by TheBuilder at 1:39 PM