Weekly Digest of Reliable Remodeler Tweets 2012-05-20

Posted by Hugh Ly ~ May 20, 2012

Weekly Digest of Reliable Remodeler Tweets 2012-05-13

Posted by Hugh Ly ~ May 13, 2012

Insulated vinyl siding and energy efficiency

Posted by Woodrow Aames ~ May 11, 2012

Once the butt of comedian's jokes, vinyl siding has been improved by leaps and bounds and today has captured a large share of the American market. Its relative ease of maintenance, good insulation qualities and affordability has silenced a lot of critics.

Benefits are legion. For starters, there's no need to repaint vinyl siding as the color is dyed into the PVC. Unlike wood siding, vinyl won't chip, crack, blister or peel. It cleans with common soap and a garden hose. The newest products come with colors and patterns that replicate wood, brick or stone.

Because it requires minimal upkeep, vinyl siding can also be a prudent choice for homeowners who choose to "age in place" and keep their houses protected from the elements throughout their Golden Years.

Vinyl siding and energy efficiency

Insulated vinyl siding can raise your home energy efficiency to a new level of performance. According to the Vinyl Siding Institute (VSI), the first insulated siding was tested in 1997 in the American South. In recent years, manufacturers Crane, Alcoa, CertainTeed, Revere, Variform and others have offered pre-installation siding with built-in insulation.

The siding is typically insulated with contoured rigid foam. For those who choose green products, you'll find vinyl siding with insulation made from recycled materials. You can easily find products that meet the specifications for ENERGY STAR® Qualified Homes Version 3 and for the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code.

The VSI reports that some states even allow insulated siding projects to qualify for the federal Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), assisting low-income families to improve their home energy efficiency.

In 2010, the VSI conducted an Insulated Siding Energy Performance Study that found a "five to 12 percent improvement in the heating energy savings" in homes that had retrofits of insulated vinyl siding. Final survey results are expected out next year.

Demand expert installation

One way to compromise the thermal component of your vinyl siding is to cut corners on installation. One contractor may insist on using a Green Guard insulation backerboard, while another may wrap sheathing with Tyvek, then install top-performance insulation over it. Interview your bidders with an eye toward understanding the levels of insulation you can expect.

If you choose a product with the insulation already built into the panels, take heed. The panels will be thicker than traditional, non-insulated siding. You'll want an installer that knows your product and the details of all warranty specifications. Play it safe.

You may want to look at insulated vinyl siding as an alternative to other exterior cladding for its value alone. The VSI reports that retrofitting with vinyl siding brought a 72 percent return on investment, 2010-2011.

How to install a paver patio

Posted by Woodrow Aames ~ May 10, 2012

Paver patios add a great accent to your landscaping. Whether you install it yourself or call in a contractor, you have a vast assortment of bricks, tiles, colors and patterns to choose from. You can design a paver patio to complement your exteriors, garden walls, and existing landscaping. Not only will a new patio add outdoor functional space, it is a durable improvement that can distinguish your home.

You can surf the web or visit your local home improvement store to round up backyard patio design ideas. Mixing different sizes and colors of pavers can create a dazzling effect. Since you will have to cut brick or tile and use a compactor to set your patio, be sure you're up for the job before beginning the project.

You already have most of the tools for the job, but you'll probably need to rent a compact brick cutter. If you do the work yourself, you should be able to bring the patio in for under $500.

First steps for the paver patio

Your patio must be laid on clear, uniform and level ground. Landscapers recommend you slope the patio one inch for every eight feet running from the house. You don't want to cause rot, runoff leaks or basement damage.

Mark out the patio with stakes and string. Dig down about six inches from the surface and rake the dirt smooth. You'll appreciate it later if you cover the surface with porous landscape fabric. The fabric lets the water drain, but prevents weeds from growing up into the patio.

Two to four-inches of crushed gravel will make a firm base atop your landscape fabric. Be sure to tamp the gravel down until the surface is firm. Dust the surface with builder's sand and smooth the entire foundation with a long board. Re-pack the surface as many times as necessary.

You can rent a plate compactor to tamp the foundation until it's rock-solid.

Laying out the pavers

Put in edging. It keeps unwanted vegetation out and keeps your pavers snug together. Use bricks, metal or lumber. Begin laying your pavers at the edge or the end closest to your house. You can use a wet saw or commercial brick cutter to make half-bricks or fill pieces. Keep your pavers as close as 1/8th inches apart and tamp them down with a rubber mallet. Use a level to ensure that the pavers are at the same height.

Last, fill gaps between pavers with fine grain sand using a push broom, and tamp again. Optional: Use a plate compactor (one or two passes) to set the pavers and level the surface.

Now, you're ready enjoy the benefits of a patio this summer.

Time to get out the paint bucket

Posted by Woodrow Aames ~ May 10, 2012

Hopefully exterior painting is not on your home improvement to-do list every year. But if this is your year, you either want to hire a paint contractor or mark out time on your calendar to do it yourself before fall. Let's look at some common painting mistakes and how to plan for success.

Check the weather

With Farmer's Almanacs and instant digital long-term forecasts, you should come up with an optimal time to schedule the work. Summertime is the perfect time for exterior painting, but in some parts of the country, you can count on sudden showers in warm months.

Overly hot days can cause lap marks when the paint dries too quickly. On the other hand, temperatures under 50 degrees can impact the drying of latex exterior paint. If you reside in a windy climate, you can prep all you like, but hold off painting until a still day or your paint will have dust and dirt in the finish.

Prepping for exterior painting

Inspect your home completely. Walk around looking for rot or mildew, popped nails, split wood and blistered paint. Remove rust stains and repair leaking gutters and downspouts. Fill, sand and prime cracks. You'll need to attend to all these issues before scraping and washing.

A wire brush or putty knife should be sufficient for removing blistered or defective paint, or use a pull scraper for difficult spots. Beware when using a sander to keep the surface plumb all across the wall. Avoid divots.

Now your walls are ready for a power washing and air drying before you apply the paint. And cover your shrubs with a drop cloth.

Avoiding common miscues

With do-it-yourself exterior painting there's the element of chance. If you don't paint for a living, you may easily end up with drips, brush marks, runs or lap marks. Avoid lap marks by working in small areas, filling them in while the borders are still wet.

Start your brushing against a corner and finish your line with an up and off stroke in a finished area. If you're using a roller, be sure to end each roll into a wet section of the paint. Check the inside edges and corners where excess paint tends to pool and brush out any runs.

If you find runs and tell-tale blobs after the paint dries, you can sand it gently off and touch it up. Even if you find lap marks after the first coat dries, a second coat applied correctly will cover it.

Building a Home Improvement Workshop

Posted by Woodrow Aames ~ May 8, 2012

Where do work on your home improvement projects and store your tools? Many homeowners just toss all their tools in plastic paint buckets and shove them in the garage. You may pride yourself in having a workshop in the garage, where every tool has its own place within hand's reach. But if you're an avid DIYer that's constantly fixing, remodeling or just tinkering, you want your own workshop.

Go online and you'll find plenty of ideas and recommendations for outfitting a new workshop or converted garage. If you want to start from plans and build a new detached garage/workshop, visit sites like the Garage Plan Shop.

If you plan on building something a little more modest (read: less expensive), you should scope all your necessary resources ahead of the game. What are you planning to use for power? You don't want to compromise your home electric system. Will you need an alternative power source? There's a wide range of energy generators to choose from, including gas powered, solar powered and even wind turbines scaled to power your workshop.

Planning for tools and projects

Your workspace must be well-ventilated for your own safety and comfort. If you're converting part of a basement room or corner of the garage, you may want to install a few hopper windows. This day and age, wise home improvement enthusiasts choose to work with non-toxic or low-VOC paints and adhesives. Nonetheless, don't skimp on fresh air.

Install adequate lighting. Drop lights, overhead lighting and even floor lamps can make your work easier. Be sure to plan for this and the power tools you're using when looking at capacity for your workshop electrical system.

Even if it's a small workshop you're after, be sure you have plenty of room to move around. Banging up against walls or storage cabinets while you attempt precision work is downright infuriating. Don't get cornered while working with power tools and risk injury.

One word about flooring: be safe. If you're working in a converted section of garage you may want to add a wood pad, cork floor or linoleum to prevent slipping as well as soften the load on your feet.

Make the most out of cabinets, shelves and wall surfaces (peg boards). You can build a drop-leaf wood table that rises out of the way when not in use and still offers a durable surface when you're cutting, hammering, or stripping.

If you choose to build a shed or separate structure, be sure to check for power and plumbing sources as well as local building codes.

Weekly Digest of Reliable Remodeler Tweets 2012-05-06

Posted by Hugh Ly ~ May 6, 2012

Keep deer from your landscaping and garden

Posted by Woodrow Aames ~ May 2, 2012

Here in the Pacific Northwest I grew a hearty garden. I fenced it in with wire and used the local version of deer repellent: concentrated coyote urine. The deer were in the yard every day, but avoided the garden. Then, as if they had a refined calendar, the deer jumped the fence one morning when everything was ripe and they strip-mined the plot.

If you're considering landscaping ideas for the spring, you might think about using plants that do nothing for deer appetites. A great place to start is by contacting a local university agricultural extension office. The offices are typically staffed with bright research scholars with a keen interest in your region.

There are ground covers, perennials, flowers and ornamental grasses that have a history of low susceptibility to grazing deer. Finding the right ones is not an exact science; it's not perfect. Remember, a ravenous deer may relax its culinary preferences.

Landscaping for resistance to deer

Rutgers University maintains an interactive site for determining Landscape Plants Rated by Deer Resistance. You can browse plants by how attractive they are to deer and by the plant type (bulbs, annuals, biennials, ferns, ground-cover, perennials, shrubs, ornamental grasses, vines and trees). Damage vulnerability is rated as: rarely damaged, seldom severely damaged, occasionally severely damaged and frequently severely damaged.

According to Rutgers, Bambi is decidedly not attracted to Angel's Trumpet, Blue Fescue, Common Boxwood, Forget-Me-Nots, Heliotrope, Lavendar, Mint, Rosemary, Tarragon, Varigated Oat Grass and Yucca.

You can also check the extension at Texas A&M, where the list takes on a Southwest flavor - or lack of one. Oleander, Texas Mountain Laurel, Green Santolina, Copper Canyon Daisy, Mexican Honeysuckle, Marigolds and Periwinkles are pretty much off the deer's training table.

You'll want to strike a balance between that which is edible landscaping for humans and a four-star dinner for fawns.

Other deer remedies

Barking dogs, bright flood lights and alarms may scare deer off, but only temporarily. Surround any of the deer-preferred species with a ring of unpalatable landscaping. There are also "contact repellants" that you spray directly on your plants. The Colorado State University Extension recommends spraying a solution of 80 percent water and 20 percent whole eggs. The sulfurous odor drives hungry deer elsewhere. But it's only good for a few weeks, or less if it rains, and must be re-applied.

If you haven't had much luck keeping deer out after trying resistant plants, electric fences and repellants, it may be time to consider building a rooftop garden.

New apps for home improvement DIYers and contractors

Posted by Woodrow Aames ~ May 1, 2012

Smartphone applications for contractors or home remodeling buffs have one incredible advantage over other tools: they don't require room in your tool bag! I scoured the blogosphere for some apps that can help in home remodeling or decorating projects. If you're willing to put some apps through the paces, you can pick and choose which ones will be up on your task bar. And for their price - a few dollars - you can always try more than you end up using.

Here are a few to consider:

Houzz Interior Design Ideas (free through iTunes). With more than 200,000 high resolution photos, Houzz' app organizes ideas by room, style, and metro area. Preview the features at Houzz.

Concrete Calculator Pro (available through iTunes). For 99 cents you can calculate the exact amount of concrete necessary to fill a square or rectangular form. If you're using a sona tube or circular form, there's a calculator for that, as well as the function to calculate exterior footings.

Home Design 3D By LiveCad (available through iTunes for $7.99). Design your dream home and then tour it in 3D. Comes with drag-and-drop furnishings, doors, windows, and floors. Comes in 12 languages and exports to your PC or iPad.

iBlueprint (free through iTunes). Create and export floor plans for yourself or (for contractors) your clients. iBlueprint is a helpful app for painters, home buyers, realtors, electricians and carpenters.

I.D. Wood ($4.99 at iTunes). I.D. Wood is an old favorite of the iTunes staff. Some 200 screen shots identify wood by species, botanical names, durability, woodworking properties, Janka hardness and sustainability. The new release supports the iPad retina display.

Home Improvement Calculators (iPhone and Android available from Construction Buddy). For a few dollars you can download calculators for paint, floor tiles, air conditioning, concrete, wall studs, wall paper, gravel, footings, drywall, carpet and bricks. Totals are expressed by material price, labor price and materials list. An app for contractors to create bids or for home owners who want to see detailed pricing for evaluating bids.

ColorSmart by BEHR (free from iTunes and the manufacturer for Android). You can look up palates at home on the BEHR website. But if you're on the job, ColorSmart Mobile can make matching up your colors a snap.

iHandy Level (free from iTunes). No need for a level in your tool bag. With the iHandy app, just set your iPhone on edge for measuring angles, slopes, aligning artwork or calculating the pitch of the roof.

There are hundreds more construction apps and more coming by the day. They'll save you time and help you make home remodeling decisions. At the very least, they can lighten your bucket.

Weekly Digest of Reliable Remodeler Tweets 2012-04-29

Posted by Hugh Ly ~ April 29, 2012


{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.


  • 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?


  • 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.


  • 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?


  • 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?


  • 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?


  • 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.