Monday, December 08, 2008

Should you Tile over Tile that has Mold Growing Underneath it?

By Mark J. Donovan

Question: My basement got water in it and I know I have mold growing underneath it. I am in the process of putting new tile over the old tile and am wondering if this is the right thing to do. I am wondering now if I should remove the old tile before installing the new tile. Any help would be appreciated.

Answer: Mold can cause negative health effects to your family. Mold spores could cause respiratory problems, particular for those who are prone to allergies or who have asthma.

If you know you have mold growing underneath your tiled floor I would first remove the old tile, perform a little mold abatement, permanently eliminate the source of water/moisture in the basement, and then re-tile the basement floor.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

2009 Eco-Friendly Home Improvement Trends

Considering the state of the environment today, it's no wonder that environmentalists are up in arms, trying to find solutions to many of the earth's serious problems. On the home front, every day working people are jumping on the eco-bandwagon and becoming more environmentally aware in their day-to-day lives. Whether it's by purchasing hybrid cars, switching out their light bulbs for CFLs or buying bedroom furniture made from sustainably harvested lumber - it's becoming easier for anyone and everyone to make a difference. Nowhere is this eco-friendly trend more evident than in home improvement. With the real estate market looking dire, folks are getting down and dirty and fixing up their homes, rather than shopping for new ones. Here are some quick fixes you can use to make your home a greener one.

Change A Light Bulb

Light bulbs are a really simple way to make a difference on the environment. The Environmental Protection Agency reports that nearly 1.8 million Americans have pledged to change at least one light bulb in their home to an eco-friendly model. These 1.8 million pledges will save around $200 million in energy bills! While eco-friendly light bulbs, like compact fluorescent (CFLs) are a bit more money up front, the benefits far outweigh the initial cost. CFLs use 70 - 75% less energy than standard incandescents and last nearly ten times longer. The future of home lighting is looking brighter.

Paint Your House Green

No, I don't mean literally paint your house green. I'm talking about eco-friendly paint options! During the normal painting process, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are released. These organic compounds greatly contribute to indoor air pollution and with the general lack of good ventilation indoors, the concentration of these harmful VOCs is much higher indoors than outdoors. This is why it's crucial when shopping for paint that you read the labels, just as you would in the grocery store. Paint companies now offer low or "no" VOC paints. These paints are made by using water as a base instead of the traditional petroleum-based oil solvents. Low VOC paints actually have to meet an EPA standard in order to be labeled as such. Green Seal, an eco-conscious non profit has created a certification process that limits low-VOC paints to 50 grams of VOC per liter. Watch out for the Green Seal on paint products to make sure you are using the safest possible paint in your home.

Purchase Green Furniture

Do you plan on replacing any furniture in the near future? Well, when you do, why not do a little research into furniture manufacturers and see who employs eco-friendly technology in their manufacturing process? Leading bedroom furniture manufacturer, Lifestyle Solutions has had its manufacturing process certified for compliance with the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) guidelines for sustainable management of tropical forests. Every single piece of furniture is constructed from plantation-grown, imported hardwood, which helps to ensure sustainable use of timber. Furniture giant Vaughan Bassett on the other hand, uses a different eco-friendly technique. Vaughan-Bassett's "One for One Program" replaces every tree used in the furniture manufacturing process. There are plenty of environmentally friendly companies out there for you to consider - just do the research!

Thursday, September 04, 2008

A Dremel Tool is the tool of choice for Removing Grout around a Broken Tile

By Mark J. Donovan

If you need to replace a broken ceramic tile, then you are going to first need to remove the old grout from around it. A Dremel Tool, such as the Dremel MultiPro Cordless 7700-02 20,000 RPM Two-Speed 7.2V Rotary Tool System w/50 Accessories, is perfect for removing grout on small ceramic tile repair projects.

To remove grout from around ceramic tile, care has to be taken not to damage the surrounding tiles. A hammer and chisel can be used for removing the grout, however you run the risk of damaging the neighboring tiles. A dremel tool on the other hand, has a high speed rotary head that you can insert various bits onto, such as a cutter, that can make short work of removing old grout.

A dremel tool is relatively inexpensive and has a million and one applications around the home. Take a look at one, prior to making your next tile repair.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Fix a Leaky Faucet Drain Pipe

Fix a Leaky Faucet Drain Pipe

By Mark J. Donovan

Question: I recently installed a new faucet and see that I have a small leak in the drain assembly area. It looks like it is at the top of the tail pipe where it connects to the base of the sink. How can I fix this leak?

Answer: First, go to your local home improvement store and pick up some plumbers putty. Plumbers putty is key to eliminating your link.

The drain tail pipe screws into the drain assembly nut that sits in the bottom of the sink. Apply a bead of plumbers putty to the bottom side of this nut. The bead should be about ¼ inch thick and should rap around the back side of the nut.

Once you have attached the bead of plumbers putty to the backside of the nut, screw the tail pipe into it from the bottom of the sink (in the cabinet area).

Before tightening the tailpipe into the drain nut make sure there is a large rubber washer sitting between the metal flange at the top of the tail pipe and the underside of the sink.

Tighten carefully with a pair of large channel lock pliers and your leak should be a thing of the past.

Friday, August 29, 2008

How to Avoid the Home Remodeling Contractor Blues

By Mark J. Donovan

When hiring a home remodeling contractor know in advance what you actually want done before hiring a contractor.

Key items to address before calling potential contracors includes:

1) Create your own drawings and list of key features you want to see in your new home or home addition.

2) Develop a target budget for the home remodeling project. Get some basic material costs from your local home improvement contractor.

3) Develop a timeline for starting and completing the project.

Once you have these key items solved in your own mind, then begin the contractor bid solication process.

Finally, remember to never overpay the contractor in terms of an initial deposit. The overall payment policy should be "pay-as-you-go". If the contractor gets ahead of you on payment receipts you will have less bargaining power to address contractor mistakes.

For more help on Hiring a Home Remodeling contactor see's Home Addition Bid Sheets.

Top 35 Home and Garden Tools for every Homeowner

By Mark J. Donovan

If you are in the process of buying your first home you need to get prepared to make the occasional home repair. Thus you are going to need to buy some basic home and garden tools.

If you are a homeowner who has plans for remodeling a home then you are going to need an even bigger tool chest. Listed below is my top 35 list of key home and garden tools for every homeowner.

1) Hammer - A 16 ounce claw hammer.
2) 25' Measuring Tape
3) Handsaw
4) Level
5) Screwdriver set
6) Socket and Wrench set
7) Crescent Wrench
8) Adjustable Pliers
9) Needle-Nose Pliers
10 Carpenters Knife
11) Wire Cutter
12) Paint Brushes
13) Paint Pan
14) Paint Roller
15) Sandpaper
16) Square
17) Straight Pipe Plumbers Wrench
18) Screwgun with Drillbits
19) Putty Knife
20) Saftey Glasses
21) Lawnmower
22) Fertilizer Spreader
23) Metal Rake
24) Yard Rake
25) Shovel
26) Circular Skill Saw
27) Table Saw
28) Electric Drill
29) Coping Saw
30) Pipe Cutter
31) Plumbers Tape
32) Miter Saw
33) Reciprocating Saw
34) Chainsaw
35) Toolbox

See HomeAdditionPlus's Tool Store to find your home and garden tools.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

A Framing Square is a Key Tool in any Carpentry Project

By Mark J. Donovan

A framing square is an integral part of any carpenter’s tool set. It is used for a multitude of framing applications. Besides aiding in making 90o angle framing cuts, it is extremely useful in framing stairs and roofs.

A framing square is constructed out of steel or aluminum. It has two arms that are positioned at a right angle to each other. One of the arms is referred to as the blade and is two inches in width and 24 inches in length. The second arm is referred to as the tongue and is 1.5 inches in width and 14-18 inches in length. The corner of the framing square is referred to as the heel.

On each of the arms there is a stamped in graduated scale in inches. The scales are stamped on both sides of the square. On the face of the square (usually determined by the manufacturer’s label) the graduated scale is broken down to 1/8th and 1/16th intervals. On the back of the square the graduated scale is broken down to 1/12th of an inch intervals.

For homeowners who are looking to simply make right angle cuts the use of a framing square is fairly self evident. The blade of the framing square should be placed up to the edge of the lumber (e.g. 2x4) and the tongue should lie perpendicularly across the top of the lumber. A line can then be made along the length of the tongue and a straight perpendicular cut can then be made. The Stanley 45-300 Aluminum Carpenters Square is an excellent framing square for any framing application.

For framing stairs, hip roofs, or rafters a more in-depth understanding of how to use the framing square is required. A book on framing, such as the Graphic Guide to Frame Construction: Details for Builders and Designers (For Pros by Pros), can provide the detailed instructions for utilizing a framing squire for these applications.


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Tips for Buying a Spirit Level

By Mark J. Donovan

One of the most useful tools for a carpenter or any DIY homeowner is a spirit level. They are used in the process of constructing a home to hanging pictures on a wall. A spirit level is a tool that enables a carpenter or DIY homeowner to determine if a surface is either level (perfectly horizontal) or plumb (perfectly vertical).
When buying a level there are a number of features to look for. Levels come in different lengths and sizes, and are typically constructed out of plastic, aluminum or wood. Relatively speaking they are inexpensive, when compared to other carpenters tools.

When selecting a level you will want to focus on making sure you buy a quality one. One of the key features to look for when selecting a level is to see how accurate the vials are for determining if a surface is either level or plumb. Look for a level that has bubbles such that when the bubbles are centered their ends just touch the inside edges of the line markers on the vial. Cheaper levels have bubbles that are either smaller or larger than the space between the line markers on the vial. This leads to guessing when reading the level. Also look for levels that have glass covers over the level to protect the vials from breaking. Finally look for levels that have bubbles that shift quickly with even the slightest adjustment.

Another area to consider when buying a level is the construction of it. Make sure the edges are perfectly smooth. I have used some levels where the ends have a cap. These caps can sometimes create an ever-so-slight ridge at the point where the cap connects to the main part of the level. This little ridge can play havoc in getting an accurate measurement. Typically the best levels are made out of hardwoods or aluminum, and have lifetime warranties.

The spirit level, (a.k.a. carpenter’s level, box level, or framing level) is the most popular level and comes in a variety of lengths. More popular lengths include 18, 24, and 48 inches. For smaller projects around the home a 24” level, such as the Black and Decker BDSL30 24-Inch 3-in-1 Gecko Grip Level, is probably all you need. If, however, you have framing projects planned then you should probably use a 48” one, such as the Carpentry & Construction Box Beam Level 48".

Electronic levels are the latest in home construction technology. Electronic levels provide vials for manual readings along with digital displays for more accurate measurements. They also provide other information such as percentage and degrees of slope which is helpful when installing drainage pipes or any surface that is angled.

Whether it is a traditional spirit level or one of the newer electronic levels, no homeowner should be without one. Spirit levels are inexpensive and have a million-and-one uses. Just make sure you buy one that meets your specific needs and has the quality to ensure a lifetime of accurate measurements.


Thursday, August 21, 2008

Use a Pneumatic Nail Gun when Installing Decking

By Mark J. Donovan

If you have plans for installing your own decking material, forget about using a hammer and look towards buying or renting a pneumatic nail gun.

Installing decking material can be a slow and painful process when using a hammer. A pneumatic nail gun on the other hand, can make short work of a decking installation project. In addition, you won’t get “tennis elbow” and you will get a better finished product. With hammer and nails, there are issues that include dealing with bent nails, bad angles for hammering, hammer dents, and inconsistent nail depth.

When looking at nail guns you want to make sure you buy or rent the right type of pneumatic nail gun for your deck installation project. You want to select one that is designed for both framing and decking applications. The Senco #1G0003N Clipped Framing Nailer is an ideal choice as it is light weight, easy to hold, and has an angled magazine for holding nail clips. The nail depth and exhaust are both adjustable. This pneumatic nail gun will handle almost any type of home remodeling framing/construction project as it supports nails lengths from 2” to 3.5”.

Installing a deck is a home improvement project that many homeowners can tackle. However, before deciding on such a path, consider renting or buying a pneumatic nail gun. It will make the job a much more enjoyable project, and you will end up with a better finished product.

Friday, August 15, 2008

A Circular Skill Saw is a Key Tool in a Home Construction Project

By Mark J. Donovan

If you are planning a home construction project, such as framing a home addition or putting in wood shelves, you are going to need a circular skill saw. A circular saw is an ideal tool for either project. A circular saw is ideal for cutting framing studs and ripping plywood.

The most common circular saw has a 7 ¼” blade and can be adjusted to make bevel cuts. They can also be adjusted for the depth of the cuts. Some of the latest models, such as the Black & Decker CS1030L 7-1/4-Inch 13 amp Laser Circular Saw with Soft Grips, have a laser guide to aid in making straight cuts.

When looking into buying a circular skill saw, make sure you look for ones that are light weight and have at least a two year warranty.

It is also important when buying a circular saw to select one that has the power to handle both small and large jobs. The metric for determining if a circular saw can handle the big jobs is the “current draw”. A saw that draws 10-13 amps, will be able to handle the big framing projects. Just remember, however, that if you are plugging a 13 amp skill saw into a 15 amp rated electrical outlet, you will most likely pop the circuit breaker if you run another electrical appliance while operating the saw.

Screw Guns are Great for Drywall and other Home Improvement Projects

By Mark J. Donovan

A screw gun is one of the best home improvement tools you can buy. Not only are they very useful for installing drywall, they are also ideal for many other home improvement and home repair projects.

Unlike a typical power drill, screw guns have an adjustable collar and clutch to help control the depth of the screw when fastening it to the drywall. This is extremely important so that you don’t inadvertently screw the drywall screw too far into the drywall.

Screw guns are also ideal for installing decking, hanging ceiling strapping / furring strips, and for many other smaller home remodeling or home improvement projects.

Screw guns come in corded and cordless varieties. Personally I like the cordless ones, as they are easier to maneuver and you don’t have to keep pulling around the cord.


Monday, August 11, 2008

Use T-111 to Dress-up and Protect your Garage Walls

Use T-111 to Dress-up and Protect your Garage Walls

By Mark J. Donovan

This weekend I installed T-111 along the back wall of my sheetrocked garage. I was tired of my garage "toys" (e.g. wheelbarrow, lawnmower, etc.) banging the sheetrock and marking it up. By installing 3/8 th inch think T-111 along the wall and capping it with 1"x3" strapping I was able to create a wainscoting type look.
T-111 is a textured sheet of plywood like material that has a 1/2" verticle trim line every 8 inches or so. It comes in 4' x 8' sheets.

To cap the top of the T-111, I cut out a wedge of material out of 1"x3" strapping it and set it on top of the T-111.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Video on Repairing a Leaky Outdoor Water Spigot

By Mark J. Donovan

Do you have a leaky outdoor water spigot that needs repair? well chances are you may very well be able to fix it yourself with just a couple of basic household tools.

In this video, a frost free outdoor spigot (a.k.a. sillcock) has a slow leak. By simply removing the handle and adjusting a nut behind the handle, I was able to make the repair myself. All I needed for tools was a screwdriver and a crescent wrench.

There is a washer that frequently fails behind the nut that sits on the backside of the handle. By either replacing this washer, or tightening up the nut in my case, you can usually eliminate the leak.


New Video on Installing Carpet Threshold Trim

By Mark J. Donovan

If you have carpeting that is still in great shape, with the exception of some fraying around an entranceway threshold, then you will want to watch this video.

In this video, the carpeting has frayed between the threshold of a bathroom and hallway. The bathroom flooring is vinyl and the hall way is carpeting. The edge strip for the carpet looks a little beat up and the carpet is starting to fray on the tack strip.

Using a new wooden carpet trim piece, you can cover up the old metal strip as well as hide the fraying.

Take a look at this video to learn the specifics for making this small home repair.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Troubleshooting and Fixing a Frost Free Leaky Sillcock

Fixing a Frost Free Leaky Sillcock / Outdoor Faucet

By Mark J. Donovan

Is your outdoor frost free faucet, also known as a Sillcock, leaking? Chances are you can fix it on your own and save yourself a bundle in plumber repair costs.

Determine where the Leak is

To fix a leaky Sillcock it is first necessary to see where the water is leaking from. Check to see if it is leaking out the spout itself.

Also check to see if it is leaking around the top cap that sits just back behind the handle. Sometimes this cap can become loose and all you need to do is simply hand tighten it. Overtime this cap can become loose due to swings in summer and winter temperatures or simply from frequent use of the sillcock.

If the leak is occurring from the spout, even after you have tightened the handle, then chances are you have a faulty washer sitting back beneath the sillcock handle.

Disassembling the Sillcock

To replace the washer, first turn the water off to the sillcock. Usually this valve can be found inside the home, e.g. the basement or utility room.

Next, rotate the handle of the sillcock to the on position to relieve any pressure in it and to drain the water.

Using a screwdriver remove the screw that holds the handle onto the sillcock.

With the screw removed, pull off the handle.

After removing the handle, use a crescent wrench to remove the sillcock nut that sits back behind the handle.

Replace Washer and Clean Internal Sillcock area

The washer that typically fails sits behind the sillcock nut. Remove it and look for damage or wear. If you see either, replace the washer. Also, make sure there are no particulates or sediment/grit inside the sillcock. If there is, flush it out with water.

Re-assemble Sillcock

With the washer replaced and the internal sillcock area free of any particles, reattach the sillcock nut cap, the handle, and the screw that holds the handle onto the sillcock.

Turn Water back on and Test Sillcock

Turn the water back on to the sillcock and observe water flowing freely from the faucet.

Turn the handle to the off position. With any luck there should be no more dribbles or dripping.

Note that with a frost free sillcock, the valve is far back into the home, (approximately 8 inches) so you should expect to see a few drips for a minute or so after closing the faucet handle. After that the sillcock should be drip free.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Converting a Kitchen Cabinet into a College Student Dresser

Converting a Kitchen Cabinet into a Dresser

By Mark J. Donovan

With two sons off to college this fall, my wife and I are actively working towards their departure from the nest. This weekend I decided to tackle a small project that converted a kitchen cabinet into a mini student dresser.

Several years ago I received a kitchen cabinet that was slightly damaged during its shipment to a home I was building. The manufacturer sent me a new one, and left the original for me to deal with. It has been sitting in my garage for a couple of years and over the weekend I finally decided it was time to do something with it.

The kitchen cabinet has four drawers and is 18” wide by 24” deep. I decided that if I mounted a top to it, that it could serve as a dresser for storing school supplies and supporting a microwave or printer.

To install a top on the cabinet, I used a ½” sheet of finished plywood. I cut it to the dimensions of 19” x 25 1/5” so that it overhung the sides by ½” and the front by 1 1/2”.

I then attached fastening rails to the inside edges of the top of the cabinet. The rails were approximately 3/4” x 3/4” width and height, and cut to the inside length of the cabinet sides.

I attached the rails to the cabinet side-walls with 1 ¼” screws, from the inside so that no screws showed from the outside of the cabinet.

I then round the front edges of the plywood top using a jigsaw, and then sanded it thoroughly. I sanded it first with a rough (100 grit) sand paper, and then with a finer 400 grit sandpaper.

I then applied a coat of mahogany stain to the top.

Next, I secured the top to the cabinet (dresser) using 1 ½” screws. The screws were applied from the inside of the cabinet, via the freshly installed rails. This enabled a finished top surface that is clean from any screws/nails.

Prior to screwing the top to the cabinet rails, I drilled pilot holes through the bottom of the rails to avoid splitting and to ease in the fastening of the rails.

Finally, I added two coats of polyurethane to the top.

Now, one of my college bound sons has a brand new mini-dresser / night stand for storing school supplies.

Monday, March 24, 2008

With Home Sales Rebounding in February is an Improving Housing Market Right around the Corner

By Mark J. Donovan

There is a sign that the housing market may be beginning to bottom out. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reported that home sales increased 2.9% in February.

This is certainly a positive sign in the housing market; however the rest of the news with this report was not so good. The report also indicated that housing prices dropped precipitously, with the average medium sale price on existing homes falling to $195,900. The NAR reported this was the biggest year over year price drop in existing home sales since 1999.

Whether or not this is truly the beginning of a recovery of the housing market or not, getting a little positive news in a market that has gone through a major correction over the past couple of years is a good sign of things to eventually come.