How to control a summer mole infestation

Posted by Woodrow Aames ~ June 28, 2012

You may think you've been invaded by an army of critters when only one or two moles are destroying your lawn and garden. Moles are voracious eaters. Yahoo Real Estate reports that the pesky intruders can dig up to 18 feet per hour in your soil. They destroy plants and leave mounds in their place. The dirt is rich, fresh soil that becomes a prime habitat for emerging weeds.

The University of Missouri Extension says that moles are not really after your bulbs; they eat grubs and worms. But the air pockets around your roots and bulbs caused by tunneling will ultimately dry out your landscaping. It's hard to imagine that one little creature under 5 ounces in weight can wreak so much havoc on your landscaping. One mole eats up to 50 pounds of insects a year.

Anyone who has seen Caddyshack knows that you can't drive moles away with dynamite. Plus the use of explosives might violate a few local ordinances. Now what?

Whack a mole

The UM Extension says the usual tools work the best: repellant, bait and traps. The first step is to discover the active holes. You can use a broom stick or stake to punch a hole in the runway between tunnels. The holes that are filled up a few hours later indicate the passage is in use. Or, you can pack down an opening and see if the mole opens it again.

Place bait, poison or traps directly in the active passageway. Traps require some physical dexterity to position in the hole. But they work. The Mole Man , a professional mole trapper who has been on the job for 25 years, recommends the Victor spear trap and the Victor Out-O-Sight trap. The most-common mistake in trapping, The Mole Man says, comes from setting traps in disused tunnels.

Traps are also a preferable method if you have dogs in your home. Your pet could take a bite out of a poisoned mole and, sadly enough, pay the ultimate price. Your local pest control company or university extension can recommend the right bait for your community, since moles have regional appetites.

The landscaping solution

If you have routine landscaping maintenance, put the professional on the case. Knowing what to ask your landscaper about pests - about grubs, fungi, or living predators - can make all the difference. Some professionals won't attack a problem unless you ask them.

In the case of moles, you'll know when you have them!

Painting Trends: Add Accent Color for 2012

Posted by Woodrow Aames ~ June 27, 2012

You've decided your house needs fresh color. Perhaps you're among the American homeowners who have decided to give up putting their residence on the market. Or, you're aging in place. It doesn't matter: if you can't stand your kitchen or living room any longer, you can create a color scheme that perfectly suits you.

Of course, paint manufacturers and home improvement mavens cite the color scheme of the year. But if you're keeping your home, you don't have to keep up with the Joneses. I like the idea of consulting online swatches and combinations as well as visiting home improvement stores for painting ideas. It's difficult sometimes to see colors clearly behind the often intoxicating names that paint companies tag them with.

For example, Benjamin Moore's color trends for 2012 are clustered in four key palates: Spiced Life, Sense and Sensibility, Earth and Sky, and Eclectic Elegance. Each name was probably test marketed to determine consumer groups along a wide scale from conservative and prim to dashing and risky.

The Spiced Life palate accents walls in neutral tones of pewter with a splash of persimmon on the ceiling. Sounds yummy, but you may want to go into a paint store and have a look. Sense and Sensibility looks right for people who still write on stationary, who love Dunmore Cream walls and Montpelier Blue accents.

What About Color Theory?

Know this: even if you're an anarchist, don't paint your kitchen black. I mean it. Reliable Remodeler can show you how to apply color theory like a professional interior designer.

There are 24 basic colors on the wheel you'll find at your paint or home improvement store. Side by side, colors influence each other. Knowing how to combine colors with the same attributes can create a tranquil blend - or you can dash in a scandalous tone without disrupting the overall design and decor.

Don't overlook coordinating improvement tasks besides repainting your interiors to change the comfort level of your home and create pleasing harmony. Use well-coordinated wall paint to boost kitchen color while cabinet refacing.

Cabinet fronts could accent your paint scheme with their own dash of color. And backsplashes and wall tiles cement a visual effect in the kitchen. Be sure to take samples from store to store as you order materials. Poor color and pattern coordination is often the number-one home improvement offender.

Resources for inexpensive cabinet hardware

Posted by Woodrow Aames ~ June 20, 2012

Never underestimate the power of cabinet hardware in transforming the appearance of your kitchen. Even if the cabinet doors and drawer facings have lost their star power to aging and abuse, a fresh set of pulls, knobs and hinges can perk things up in a flash. Want to change the style or decor while on a tight kitchen remodeling budget? Have a look at re-used, inexpensive and decorative hardware that can be swapped out in no time at all.

Your first step is in identifying the theme, color and materials that already dominate your kitchen style. It's easy to find wood pulls and knobs if your cabinets and walls accent fine woodwork. There are also attractive brass, ceramic, brushed steel, copper, glass and porcelain hardware in a variety of shapes and colors to match or complement your decor.

Be sure to inventory your existing pulls and knobs before shopping around for hardware. You'll want to create a full set, rather than a hodgepodge assortment of replacements.

Shopping for kitchen hardware

While there are boutique and national suppliers of restored or high-end hardware, it's just as easy to find local used furniture or salvage shops with affordable - or downright cheap - materials. My local Goodwill Store had a matched set of donated bedroom chests with just the right number of knobs for my pantry cabinets.

I took a spin through the listings for cabinet hardware at eBay and found a set of 50 brass knob pulls and screws for $29. Of course, you're taking a chance that the photo shows the true colors or patterns. Still, there were 88 listings on eBay for used kitchen cabinet hardware.

Genuine metal replacements for brass and copper will take some work if you hope to find them at a reasonable price. On the other hand, you can find new hardware made of pewter than looks great and costs less than recycled metal pulls and knobs.

As of this writing, Ikea has more than 50 sets of handles and knobs running from $1.99 for a set of 6 Satta knobs (plastic) up to a pair of aluminum (brush nickel-plated) handles at $8.99.

If you're a dedicated DIYer, you can make your own knobs from dowels. Yahoo writer Ann Siper has made wooden pulls by cutting up broomsticks and other wooden handles.

If you're wondering how to personalize your kitchen renovation, think hardware!

An easy summer deck tune-up project

Posted by Woodrow Aames ~ June 19, 2012

Mid-summer is a great time for enjoying your deck, patio and pool. It's also the best time of year for tending to outdoor improvements and routine maintenance. Juggling your time wisely, you won't have to give up a weekend barbecue or party because your deck needs painting. Schedule a free weekend for the work, whether you do it yourself or bring in painting contractors.

One way to handle a large deck project is to break it down into manageable segments. First, if you have moss on your patio deck, you may be able to remove it safely with soap and water, and a heavy hosing. Don't use a pressure washer that can damage your deck, gouge the wood, or peel off paint. Moss is slippery and can cause injuries, but you can probably remove it using elbow grease without resorting to a chemical moss killer.

Prepping the deck surface

Ideally, Benjamin Moore suggests you paint early in the summer before temperatures soar above 90 degrees or before sweltering humidity arrives for the season. Sweep your deck and remove any debris before using any cleaners.

Water-based deck cleaners are sold as concentrates that you mix with warm water in your sprayer. Use trisodium phosphate (TSP) if you want to avoid a commercial deck cleaning product. Soak a section of your deck and work in the cleaner with a stiff-bristled brush. Let it cut built-up grime and grit for ten minutes, then hose it off. Multi-purpose deck cleaning products are made for finished wood that has lost its luster. There are brightening solutions that can restore aged or sun-faded wood while removing dead fibers.

If you have sections of deck with grey, soft/mushy or discolored boards, they may be rotting. If you have to replace boards, you'll need to install foot-long, 2x4 support blocks of wood to shore up the new plank.

Putting on the finish

Your deck should be clean and dry for at least two days before finishing. Better Homes and Gardens recommends that you choose semi-transparent and solid stains that last two to four years. By contrast, clear or tinted stains typically last only half that long. A semi-transparent stain shows off the grain pattern in the wood. Be sure that the kind of finish you choose is an oil-based water repellant product or follow up with a sealer.

Remember to use eye protection when working with any caustic sprays, stains or cleaners.

Weekly Digest of Reliable Remodeler Tweets 2012-06-17

Posted by Hugh Ly ~ June 17, 2012

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Is It Green, or Is It Sustainable?

Posted by Woodrow Aames ~ June 12, 2012

These days, you'll find the words "green" and "sustainable" tossed around like chocolate chips in articles and blogs about home improvement, construction and energy efficiency. The words are not interchangeable but they can be used in describing the same products or designs. In examining materials or methodology, look over your details with a fine eye. Remember how easy it is for food companies to claim their products are "organic"? Terms like "sustainable" and "green" can often be throw away lines.

Go Green Street argues that "sustainable" products are created in balance with ecology: they allow for ongoing regeneration of the resource and are harvested without compromising the ecology where they're naturally found. "Green", on the other hand, does not mean the product is sustainable; it most closely means that the product or material can decay into the environment, as in recycled paper towels. If it's disposable, Go Green Street says, it's not truly green.

The ZTC International landscape blog writes that how a product is created, transported and powered has a lot to do whether it's sustainable. In this case, "green" refers to the impact of the product or system. But it's not necessarily sustainable if it took gas-guzzling planes and ships to transport "green" bamboo flooring to your home.

Green, ZTC clarifies, is a description of immediate effect, but not necessarily of long-term, positive ecological impact.

Can it be green and sustainable?

Writing in the For Residential Pros blog, writer John Wagner argues that downloading music to an iPod (to cut down toxic CD packaging) is hardly sustainable if it's manufactured in a "filthy plant in China powered by coal generating plants in here in the United States." To carry both labels legitimately, Wagner says, a product must perform as a green product, have low or no toxic materials (VOCs), and be manufactured in a sustainable system.

Last spring, Mother Earth News writer Tim Snyder cited a United Nations definition that, "Sustainable entities are those that meet present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs."

From a practical standpoint, it's easier for consumers to go green rather than opt for sustainability. There are more green products on the market. "Going green" would be to retrofit your lighting fixtures with CFLs. Going sustainable would be to install cork flooring in your den. You might find yourself going green with alternative building materials. "Going sustainable" might mean hitching your home to net zero energy sources like solar and wind.

Vote for the Best Siding Projects

Posted by Woodrow Aames ~ June 11, 2012

One sure way to develop an appreciation for the work that can be done with vinyl siding to transform a home is to see before and after shots of the project. That in mind, it's not too late to participate in VinylSidingZone.com's contest to find America's Best Siding Makeover.

Now in its fourth week, the contest allows homeowners and siding contractors to upload before and after photos of projects, submitting them for your vote. Homeowners can win $50 American Express gift card prizes and at the same time, you'll get ideas for your own makeovers.

The siding makeover contest will award the homeowner of the winning project $250. The winning contractor will also be awarded a grand prize.

Vinyl siding projects to behold

The current contractor leading the pack as of this week was Bennett Andelman for a tasteful use of two tones in an Oaklyn, NJ home. He used Crane Cedar Tech siding in Double 4.5" Dutch Lap sheets.

Adelman also captured second place for a home in Millville, NJ employing a lighthouse red tone of Cedar Tech by Crane. The treatment shows how to use color to preserve the tones of a traditional Cape Cod appeal.

Entries have come from all around the country, and the siding-makeover gallery features examples from Texas, Minnesota, Virginia, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Styles for everyone

I was delighted to see the contest projects embracing a range of homes. You'll find examples of vinyl siding used to great effect in Victorians, Cape Cod homes, and Craftsman.

Want to enter your home, recommend another house or contractor? Visit the Vinyl Siding Zone entry page. Your friends can enter and choose a winner, too.

I surfed the main site see its features and was impressed. Siding options are covered by color, style, accessories, manufacturers, installation instructions and cost estimates, and you'll find an ample selection of how-to articles. There are tips for cleaning vinyl siding, lists of tools and techniques for siding installation, siding maintenance and repair articles, dos and don'ts in choosing siding, and how to replace vinyl siding on a budget.

By the way, we have a wealth of information here at Reliable Remodeler on siding, including our guide of Ten Easy Steps to Repair Vinyl Siding or what to look for in vinyl siding contractors.

Weekly Digest of Reliable Remodeler Tweets 2012-06-10

Posted by Hugh Ly ~ June 10, 2012

Weekly Digest of Reliable Remodeler Tweets 2012-06-03

Posted by Hugh Ly ~ June 3, 2012

Weekly Digest of Reliable Remodeler Tweets 2012-05-27

Posted by Hugh Ly ~ May 27, 2012

ELSEWHERE @ RELIABLE REMODELER

{Remodeling Ideas}

{Ask the Contractor}

  • Is this home worth it?

    I am looking at buying a cheap house that needs some major upgrades, including raising the ceiling. I would like to make it a cathedral ceiling. The roof looks like it is sagging and would need to be redone anyway. Is it worth buying a house under 100,000 if it needs these big remodels? Any ideas of what I could expect to pay? Thanks.

    -Amy

  • Is it possible my I-joist is damaged?

    My home had I-joists supporting the plywood floor. I had the plywood replaced, and when the contractors were pulling it up, I noticed they were ripping off a top layer of the joists. I asked them to stop and called the foreman over to evaluate. He says it did not damage the integrity of the I-beam, but I don't know if I can trust his word on that. What do you think?

    -Carlos

  • Can I safely move a support post?

    I bought a house with an unfinished basement and there's a support post right in the middle of the I-beam. To properly frame out the room, is it possible to move it three feet off center and not have it cause any issues structurally? It's a two-story home.

    -Denis

  • Whose job is it to measure for a kitchen remodel?

    The design plan of my new kitchen cabinets said the end of the cabinets would terminate with inches of wall space showing. When the cabinets were installed there was a whole foot of wall space. When I questioned my contractor, he said it's not his job to measure - it's my job. Is this true?

    -SO

  • How can I remove a column from my basement?

    I have a structural beam in my basement that has a 15 foot span with a lally column at seven feet. The beam is three 2x8s pocketed into the foundation on both sides. There are no walls or beams above this beam. How can I remove it?

    -Anthony

  • What are the best boards to use for building a deck?

    I want to build a 16" x 16" deck. What size boards should I use?

    -Mike

  • What's the best way to move a washer and dryer?

    If I wanted to relocate my washer and dryer to a newly constructed out building to save a little room in my house, how would I handle the drainage? Also, if I created a rain garden next to the out building, can I drain it into the rain garden?

  • How do I reattach wires going from the thermostat to the fireplace?

    I have a continental gas fireplace, and the wires from the thermostat to the fireplace have come disconnected at the fireplace. There are four wires: yellow, red, green, and black. There are three vertical terminal posts labeled from top to bottom TP TH, TP, and TH. Can you tell me which wires go where? Thanks.

    -Gary