Visit our forum for helpful tips and advice from other do-it-yourselfers! Click here.
Have an idea for our next newsletter? Send it our way!
Would you like to advertise on the On The House website or e-newsletter? Click here to tell us more!
To unsubscribe or change your subscription preferences, click here.
On The House Express is brought to you in part by:
Thus, cost-conscious builders often focus on one of two ready solutions to meet minimum requirements in producing a code-worthy house: (1) They simply install an operable window in baths with an exterior wall, or (2) They install a bathroom exhaust fan that meets minimum air-exchange requirements (usually an inexpensive, extremely noisy model that is sometimes hastily and improperly vented directly into the attic or a crawl-space).
Let’s Clear the Air
“So, what’s wrong with that,” you might say? “All I want to do is to clear the air, if you know what I mean.” Yes, we know what you mean, and that is all well and good – but only to a point – as it is the absolute minimum advantage, benefit and/or purpose of adequate bathroom ventilation, mechanical or otherwise.
You know those steamy mirrors and damp, dripping walls you have after taking a shower? Actually, the primary purpose of a good bathroom fan is to draw out this pervasive moisture that creates mildew, generates musty odors and leaves hard-to-clean mineral deposits behind. Even far more important, is the residual moisture that creates unsightly mold – both where it can be seen (on grout) and more seriously, where it can’t be seen when it seeps into cracks and crevices to destroy insulation and framing lumber, where it can grow unchecked into a serious health problem.
So… “What’s wrong with just opening a window or running a cheap and noisy, improperly-installed builder-model bathroom fan?” It is where serious problems can – and often do – begin. Why?
Let’s consider the “open window” solution. First off, an open window simply does not provide enough air exchange – fast enough or thorough enough – to provide the moisture evaporation needed to eliminate the potential problems just noted.
This is also compounded by a number of issues, starting with “tighter” sealed homes resulting from the energy-efficiency drive kicked-off in the 1970s. An open widow, depending on season and where one lives, either brings in scads of unwanted hot or cold air – which is not good energy efficiency-wise. And there is the safety and security issue. Do you want an open window while showering? Or to leave it open for an extend period to dry things out? Probably not. Thus, the “open window” technique is not the best solution.
Then there is the cheap and noisy, improperly-installed builder-model bathroom fan. Because it is noisy, homeowners use it as little as possible. Especially, if someone is still asleep nearby. And when it is used, for whatever time period, if improperly installed (as they often are and were) – vented directly into the attic or a crawl space – they are simply speeding up the process of transferring lots of destructive moisture-laden air directly from the bath to the vulnerable interior structure, where it can breed unimpeded as an unseen science experiment.
Good, Better, Best Ventilation
So what is a homeowner to do? First and foremost, be sure your current bathroom fan is sending its exhaust outdoors. If it is simply “moisturizing” your home’s interior – correct it immediately. That would be “good.”
“Better,” is to be sure you run your bathroom fan long enough to make sure it provides sufficient air-exchange to dry out your bathroom, which can take as long as 15- to 20-minutes. Unfortunately, a noisy fan often precludes this.
Still “better” solutions are: (1) A bathroom fan upgrade. New products, like the “Bath Fan Upgrade Kit” (now available at home centers), easily replaces specific earlier Broan®, NuTone® and Nautilus® model fans with a far more powerful, yet much quieter motor, increases exhaust efficiency by as much as 20-percent and includes a new face-plate grill for an updated fresh look. Option (2) Install a light switch with a built-in timer that can be set to shut off the fan after a given period of time. Either is good, together they’re great.
However, the “best” solution is to look to today’s new breed of bathroom ventilation solutions offered by leading manufacturers, such as Broan and NuTone, that are: quiet, powerful, scientifically well-vented and loaded with make-sense conveniences – that together, remove moisture extremely efficiently and quietly while making life just a little it better (make that a lot better).
Today’s best bathroom exhaust fans are either very quiet or “whisper” quiet – meaning you don’t hear them at all. The noise level of bathroom fans is measured or rated in “Sones.” Without going into a lengthy scientific explanation, just know that typical fans operate at 4.0 to 6.0 Sones, which is pretty noisy.
Newer Broan and NuTone models, and “Bath Fan Upgrade Kit” motors, operate at about 3.0 Sones which is far easier on the ears (and nerves). However, the latest high-end Broan and NuTone models, such as the new Ultra Silent™ series and QXTEN line with new hi-tech super-quiet motors – succeed in dropping Sones to miniscule levels in the .09 to .03 range.
Both Broan and NuTone also offer contemporary larger ducting, up to 6-inches in diameter, which reduces exhaust resistance (and noise) and significantly improves performance versus industry standard 4-inch ducts or the totally inadequate 3-inch venting used on the cheap-o models. Broan and NuTone also lead the industry in both offering and converting to this improved and more efficient larger duct configuration.
Beyond this, both Broan and NuTone also offer a full compliment of nifty “gotta have” options that make life just a little bit better. They include amenities like: Fan/Light combinations with built-in ceiling lights and/or soft-glow night lights; Fans with both lights and built-in heaters; and fans with Sensaire® “humidity sensor” technology that automatically turn on when needed and off when their job is done. Then there are fans than don’t even look like fans. They may look like a designer light fixture, a stylish grill or simple offset slit vents high up in the ceiling.
Join the Bathroom Fan Club
If we’ve simply made you realize your bathroom fan is for more than just “clearing the air,” it’s a great start. But if you’re tired of seeing wallpaper droop, paint peel off the walls, nasty mildew and scary mold (or worse, not seeing it) plus fogged-up mirrors, not being able to dry yourself off completely or a variety of bad hair days (to name but a few concerns or discomforts) – then it’s time for action.
Practice “good” ventilation by running your existing fan long enough to do the job for which it is intended – or step-up to “great” ventilation by heading for your local home center to check out both Broan and NuTone’s state-of-the-art “quiet” bathroom ventilation. You’ll be impressed by their lower Sones (indicating quietness) and their listed CFM (cubic-feet-per-minute) rate of air-exchange. Basically, think less Sones and more CFM. Better yet, think Broan and NuTone.
There, I think we’ve “cleared the air” on bathroom ventilation.
Safety upgrades and modest remodeling are good investments
The annual "Cost vs. Value" article published annually by Remodeling Magazine gives consumers a look at the average price—and the return on investment—of all the most popular types of remodels.
In 2005, the word was that the average return on a remodeling project was in the high 90 percentile. At the same time the average cost of a kitchen remodel nationwide was $108,000.
In 2006, the 19th annual cost vs. value report shows, housing sales slowed and remodeling did, too. The survey, published last November, said that returns on remodeling investment in 2006 had plummeted from the 90s to the 70s, a whopping 20 percent drop.
Remodeling is still going strong, but with the slowdown in new home sales, most consumers have become reluctant to invest in higher-end products—expensive finishes such as fancy faucets and flooring, for example.
The word among those in the industry is: Don't expect customers to pay $700 to $900 for a faucet, because the ones most desired now are closer to the middle in price, $200 to $300.
We have trouble believing that anyone would spend more than $200 on a faucet anyway.
Nonetheless, now you know the industry buzz.
Keep in mind that our faucet example also applies to finish choices folks are making as they remodel. Other features and finishes offered at the upper end of the price scale included expensive tile and custom hardwood floors, and bathrooms with fireplaces.
But is remodeling still a good investment?
You bet, as good as ever. However, you may want to think out exactly what you want to spend on your remodel before making the final decision. Currently, more modest investments in finish items are getting the best return.
Don't forget smoke alarms and CO2 detectors. If you don't have them, add them. If you do have them, bring them up to date—smoke detectors stop detecting after 10 years.
Safety, energy and maintenance repairs are not considered remodels. A remodel is not tax-deductible against a home's capital gain.
A repair is deductible. That's because a remodel is considered (by the government) as an improvement to conditions where a repair, even if it is an upgrade, brings the home back to its normal condition.
Once your home is safe, energy-efficient and properly maintained, remodel the master bath and kitchen. Of all possible remodels, they have always been top of the list.
You'll never want to leave once those two areas of your home are up to snuff.
The cost vs. value report covered 25 popular remodeling projects performed in 60 US cities. The report itself can be found at:
More home improvement tips and information are available on the Web at:http://www.onthehouse.com or by calling 1-800-737-2474, ext. 59.
Keeping your home and its operating systems clean and in good working order will make everything safer, more energy efficient and will cut utility and repair bills. What's more, regular maintenance can prevent damage that can lead to hundreds or thousands of dollars in repairs.
Many home maintenance projects offer a two for one—they improve appearance and prevent costly repairs down the road. For example, a fresh coat of paint will do wonders to improve the appearance of your home. That coat of paint will also offer weather protection that prevents deterioration and rot.
Many home maintenance tasks offer multiple benefits. Changing a furnace filter will not only improve the air quality in your home; a clean filter also means that the system won't have to work quite as hard and, thus, will save money on repairs and your utility bill.
Though home maintenance is a year-round task, spring and fall are two of the most important times for it.
Fall is the best time to prepare your home for winter rains and snow. Projects such as exterior caulking will prevent leaks and drafts. Repairing gutters and downspouts, roofing and drainage systems will help prevent roof leaks and flooded basements.
Spring is a time to assess how well your maintenance work held up during the winter and what other maintenance work or repairs must be made as a result of winter. Here's our list of spring home maintenance tasks that will keep your home humming for another season.