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Black & Decker
Black & Decker

Great Stuff Foam Sealants
Great Stuff Foam Sealants

Johns Manville
Johns Manville

Kwikset
Kwikset

Mag Manufacturing
Mag Manufacturing

PolySeamSeal
PolySeamSeal

Therma-Tru
Therma-Tru

TimberTech
TimberTech

Wayne Dalton
Wayne Dalton


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Wayne Dalton

Home Improvement New Year’s Resolution Solutions

By now you've probably broken all your resolutions. So much for losing weight, exercise, quitting smoking, getting organized and bringing about world peace. Don't despair because you can have a second-chance. Here's how it works. Resolve to do something around the house like tightening loose screws in a door hinge or fixing that broken chair leg, or putting up shelves or maybe adding a dimmer switch. If you feel a bit more energetic, build a bookcase or put up track lighting, clean out the garage or maybe paint a room or two. Who knows, you just might burn off some calories and get some exercise, which will go a long way toward making good on your original resolutions.

Don’t be surprised if your new found “kill two birds with one stone” resolution routine has some very positive effects on your home fix it “to-do” list. The surge of adrenaline that you experience from the physical exertion and the excitement associated with successfully making a few home improvements and burning off some calories can throw your do-it-yourself get-up-and-go into high gear. Thus, in celebration of a new year and in consideration of your desire to get more exercise and to trim down, we offer some suggestions for home improvement that will assist you in your quest for self improvement. Good luck!

Is your home looking a little worse for wear? Need a few fixes, here and there? Good impressions start at your front door. If your door's beat-up and faded, repaint it, using two coats of satin-finish paint. Flat is too dull, and gloss too shiny. Then, as budget allows, add a shiny knocker, fancy new hardware, a door mat and plants to set it off.

In the bathrooms, polish or replace sink fixtures and install a state-of-the-art shower head. Then clean grout with a toothbrush and a 50/50 solution of bleach and warm water. In the kitchen, new cabinet knobs and drawer pulls and well-scrubbed counters complete the transition. Want to kick it up a notch? How about a kitchen or bath cabinet tune up? No money in the budget to replace or reface cabinets? First, tackle the hardware, adjusting hinges on misaligned doors. All you need is a screwdriver and a little trial and error. Fill any stripped screw holes with toothpicks and white glue so that loose hinges can be firmly reinstalled. Adjust or replace any catches that hold doors shut, and any worn or bent drawer rollers and slides. Add felt bumper pads to silence doors. After giving all interiors a good scrubbing, turn your attention to cosmetic details: touch up nicks and scratches, tighten, glue and/or replace knobs and handles and clean wood cutting boards with lemon juice and table salt.

Keeping mechanical systems working efficiently and saving energy should be a part of any new year’s resolution list. When it’s cold outside your furnace and water heater work harder, accounting for 86 percent of the typical winter gas bill. There are steps you can take to reduce seasonal gas bills. First, for both safety and efficiency, have your furnace professionally inspected and perform routine maintenance such as changing filters, adjusting burners, lubricating mechanical parts and cleaning the blower chamber. Second, if you haven’t done so already, install a programmable thermostat to automatically control your home’s temperature. Third, weather-strip and caulk all drafty windows and doors -- that’ll save at least five percent on your heating cost. Fourth, check heating ducts for leaks, and make repairs with a mastic-type sealant (not duct tape). This could cut heating costs by five to twenty percent. Finally, lowering the setting on your water heater thermostat can cut water heating by ten to twenty percent.

If you’ll be caulking – as suggested earlier – to reduce drafts, weatherize or prevent interior leaks (such as around sinks and tubs), but are concerned that you’ll end up with a mess, we’ll have you caulking like a pro if you follow these simple steps. Caulking requires two important tools: 1) your finger and 2) lots of paper towels or a damp sponge. Your finger, because it is flexible and can be formed to fit almost any shape or surface and the paper towels or damp sponge so you can frequently clean your finger and the joint where the caulk is being applied.

Want to caulk like a pro? Try this technique and you'll be the envy of your neighborhood. After wiping the joint with denatured alcohol, apply one continuous course of masking tape to either side of the joint. The edge of the tape should be held approximately one sixteenth of an inch from the center of the joint. Tip: use blue painter's tape instead of conventional masking tape because it has less adhesive and is easier to remove. With the tape in place, caulk away, removing the excess as discussed earlier. Simply peel back the tape...pulling away from the joint...and, voila, a perfect joint every time.

When it comes to exterior maintenance, unless you're socked in with ice and snow, the roof might be where you'll go. When serious winter weather sets in, it pays to make a midseason check to see how your roof is holding up against heavy rains or ice and snow. One of the best means of accomplishing this is by using a pair of binoculars with both feet planted firmly on the ground. If on the roof you must go, it's wise to note how pro roofers stay safe, and avoid nasty falls. They wear soft rubber-soled shoes and they nail 2x4 cleats across the roof at 6-foot intervals as slide guards. For themselves and their tools and materials, they use fall arresters on steep roofs -- belts, harnesses and ropes. That's something you should do, too. Down below they string caution tape to warn others of possible falling debris, and they avoid back injuries by careful lifting and the wearing of support belts.

Though your home improvement resolution solutions may not include a trip on the roof, it may require working outside in cold weather, which could mean cold hands, a cold nose, or cold feet. When out in the cold, always wear a hat. While a head is only ten percent of a body, we lose more than thirty percent of our body heat through the head. Kids lose up to sixty percent through their little noggins. Unlike other blood vessels in our body, arteries in the head don't constrict in cold air because the brain needs all the blood it can get. So, as the blood freely rushes through, heat escapes unless you wear a hat. Then the heat stays in and is transferred to other parts of the body -- like your hands, feet and nose. When it's cold, wear a hat.

Here’s hoping that all of your New Year’s home improvement resolution solutions are successful and that you and your home (and family) will be better for it.

Happy New Year!


Helpful Hints

If you happened to get a new tool for Christmas, and need a place to store it, we have the answer. Screws make great pegs for hanging things on the wall. They're quick and easy to drive into a garage stud and they're strong and inexpensive. Unlike a nail, a screw can be easily removed and reused, or relocated. Unfortunately, an unprotected screw can scratch a new tool.

To enjoy the simplicity, speed and cost effectiveness of screws, without damaging your tools, add a layer of protection. We suggest a little plastic tubing or rubber tubing. Our example uses a 2-inch screw and 1-inch tubing, but the size can vary depending on your needs.

  • First, use a 2-inch drywall screw (the standard kind has a flared flat head). They also are black in color and have heavy threads and very sharp points that make them easy to drive.
  • Next, buy a 1-inch length of plastic or rubber tubing. Clear, colored or black—your choice.
  • Cut the tubing to 1 inch in length so that the leftover portion of the screw will penetrate into the wall at least 1 inch. In this example 1 inch is half the length of the screw. However, the relationship between screw and cover will vary based on screw length and what weight it will be expected to hold. Begin with 3-sixteenth-inch tubing if you can find it, or experiment with other sizes. Home centers and auto parts stores carry myriad tubing types and styles.
  • Next, slip the screw into the tubing.
  • Finally, drive the screw in until the end of the tube rides snugly against the wall and until the flared screw head seats just inside the other end of the tube.

Do-it-yourself cushioned pegs work well anywhere. Take a look around the house (not just the garage) and put leftover screws and tubing to good use.

Did you ever have a tube of leftover caulk or adhesive that dried out and had to be thrown away? Caulking—especially the silicone kind—can get expensive, $6 a tube and up. Yet it often is available in quantities several times greater than what most of us need. For that reason, we find ourselves replacing the cap and storing the leftover caulk until next time, only to find that it has dried out and must be thrown away. It doesn't have to be that way. All you need is a screw-in eye or hook—your very own personal caulking cap and storage hook. Tube tips can vary in size so to be on the safe side, purchase a handful of screw-in hooks and-or eyes in varying diameters from about 1-8th of an inch to 3-8ths of an inch. Length isn't as important as diameter since the seal will occur at the very tip of the container. Here's how to do it:

  • First, select a hook or eye where the screw portion is about a 16th- to an 8th of an inch or so larger than the opening at the end.
  • Apply a small amount of the contents of the tube onto the threads (as a sealant).
  • Screw the hook or eye into the opening until the fit is snug.
  • Hang the sealed tube where you can find it next time you need it.

Want an easy-to-fill, easy-to-pour watering can?

Better yet, do you want one that's easy to make—and is free?

Recycling things you would normally discard is good for the pocketbook and the environment. You'll love this one. Take your old liquid laundry detergent bottle and use a little bit of ingenuity by modifying it to make a watering can.

  • First, rinse the bottle out thoroughly.
  • Next, remove the cap and drill a series of 8th-inch holes in the top of the cap.
  • Drill a half-inch hole just above the handle of the bottle itself. This one is for pressure equalization so that water will flow freely.
  • Finally, fill with water, replace the cap and begin watering.

Some of these laundry detergent bottles are ergonomically designed to be comfortable to use.

Regulating Indoor Humidity

What do creaking floors, condensation and sneezing have in common? Each can be related to the humidity level in your home. And it doesn't stop there. Damage to wood floors and electronic equipment, increased dust, respiratory problems, throat and skin irritation, rot, pests, mold and mildew, dust mites and allergies are other common problems that result from indoor humidity levels that are either too low or too high.

Humidity is the amount of water vapor in the air and is caused by many factors. Cooking, bathing and doing laundry all produce water vapor and, thus, raise indoor humidity. Running your home's heating system can keep you warm during the winter, but it can cause your house to become too dry when heaters and cooler temperatures combine to lower the moisture levels in the air.

Dry home syndrome is common in older, less energy-efficient homes—homes that are not as tight as new homes; drafts can lower indoor humidity. The reverse is true with a tight, more energy-efficient modern home. The lack of free exchange of air can cause high indoor humidity levels.

An indoor humidity level less than 30 percent is too dry. Such a level can cause dry nose and throat and colds; wall paneling, wood trim and hardwood flooring can shrink and cause joints to open; cracks in drywall and plaster can develop; joints in wood furniture can become loose, and pianos can go out of tune. If you find yourself being shocked by static electricity as you move about your home, your home's indoor humidity is too low. Skin irritation and respiratory problems are other telltale signs.

Conversely, a home that is too wet—where the humidity is greater than 50 percent—can be a breeding ground for mold, rot, pests such as termites and cockroaches and condensation. Excess humidity can produce enough condensation to result in staining on ceilings and walls and cause flaking paint and peeling wallpaper. In warmer climates, the combination of high humidity and heat provide the optimal environment for pests and mold. If you live in an area where termites are pervasive, you have a lethal combination that can, if you don't take preventive action, make your home one big science experiment. While it's true that dryness is more common in the cold north, many homes throughout the country experience the same problems when the weather turns cold. However, more often than not, homes contain enough sources of indoor moisture (cooking, clothes drying, showering) to balance the moisture losses in winter and keep humidity at a comfortable level.

An effective means of dealing with dry home syndrome is to use either a portable or whole-house humidifier. The most common type is an evaporative humidifier wherein a reservoir holds cold water and dispenses it into a basin. A wicking filter absorbs the water from the basin and a fan blows air through the moistened filter. As the air passes through the filter, it evaporates some of the water there. The higher the relative humidity, the harder it is to evaporate water from the filter, which is why a humidifier is self-regulating (as humidity increases, the humidifier's water-vapor output naturally decreases).

Sometimes an evaporative humidifier will be hooked up to the heating and cooling system of a house or building. These systems work in a similar way. A metal mesh or screen is located in the duct coming from the furnace and-or air conditioner. Water from the building's pipes flows down the screen. As air coming from the duct blows across the screen, it picks up moisture.

If your home is too wet, you can lower the humidity by installing exhaust fans in the bathrooms, kitchen, laundry and any other space where water vapor is created. You may also need a dehumidifier, which in contrast to a humidifier removes moisture from the air. The usual technique to remove the moisture is to condense it onto a cold surface. Anyone who has poured a cold glass of iced tea on a hot, humid summer day knows that moisture will condense on the glass. When air cools, it loses its ability to hold moisture. In the case of the cold glass, the moisture in the air condenses right onto the glass. If the glass is left on a table long enough and if the air is very humid, a significant puddle of water will form. You may have noticed the same phenomenon in an air conditioner. The moisture in the air inside the room condenses onto the air conditioner's cold coils. If it's a window unit, the water drips out the back of the unit onto the ground.

Excessive indoor humidity is removed with a dehumidifier which is essentially an air conditioner that has both hot and cold coils in the same container. A fan draws humid air over the cold coil of the air conditioner to condense moisture, which then drips into a collection container. Dry air passes over the hot coil to restore it to its original temperature. Air conditioned space should not need a dehumidifier since it acts as one.

For best indoor comfort and health, a relative humidity of about 45 percent is ideal. You can track your home's humidity with an inexpensive hygrometer. You might be surprised to learn how low it is.