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Eliminating drafts pays dividends. Besides being more comfortable and saving money on the utility bill, an energy-efficient home helps conserve our natural resources. Eliminating drafts is one of the least expensive, most cost-effective improvements you can make to your home. All the doors and windows in the average home can be weather-stripped for about the same cost as dinner and a movie - and in about the same amount of time.
A trip to your local home center or hardware store will reveal a vast assortment of weather-stripping materials. Ultimately, the type of material used depends upon two major factors - the configuration and construction of the door or window and your budget.
When weather-stripping a door, consider the top, sides and bottom. The top and sides can be tackled with various styles of weather-stripping while the bottom will require different materials.
Adhesive-backed foam, felt strips, serrated metal/felt, spring metal, interlocking metal and a tubular vinyl gaskets are the most popular weather-stripping designs to eliminate drafts at the top and sides of a door. Of these choices, the adhesive-backed foam and tubular vinyl gaskets are the most popular among do-it-yourselfers.
Adhesive-backed foam consists of a foam rubber strip about 1-inch wide with peel-away paper. A step up is the tubular vinyl gasket weather-stripping. It is a vinyl tube with a nailing lip. Upgraded variations of this style of weather-stripping include a solid aluminum nailing strip to which the vinyl tube is attached. Both of these materials also can be used to weather-strip certain types of windows. Many retailers sell the vinyl tube/aluminum strip packaged in precut lengths with enough material to do the top and sides of one door.
The spring "V" metal strip and interlocking metal are the best permanent types of weather-stripping. Polyethylene and dense foam rubber are the best nonmetal materials. Nylon pile can flatten out over time.
Eliminating drafts at the bottom of a door is an altogether different process. The key to sealing drafts here is to have the bottom of the door and the threshold work in harmony - without sticking. There are various means to accomplish this.
A threshold can be made of wood, metal or plastic, or a combination. It can interlock with the bottom of the door, can have a vinyl gasket or consist of nothing more than the basic threshold itself. The most common type is made of aluminum without the gasket or interlocking feature.
A threshold is an object of abuse. Besides the wear and tear it receives from constant opening and closing of a door, it is subject to lots of foot traffic. Thus, vinyl gaskets tend to become damaged and interlocking mechanisms bent.
A door bottom or "door shoe" can be the real key to remedying a drafty door. An aluminum door shoe is shaped like the letter "U," fits snugly over the bottom of the door and has a vinyl gasket that seals to the threshold. The door shoe is attached to the bottom of the door with screws through slotted holes that allow for seasonal adjustment. If the vinyl gasket should become worn out, it can be replaced without having to replace the entire door shoe.
Another means of controlling drafts at the bottom of a door is a door sweep. It is a strip of aluminum that holds a flap of vinyl securely in place. When the door is closed, the flap rests snugly against the threshold. As with the door shoe, the sweep is attached to the bottom of the door with screws.
An often-overlooked source of drafts is the bottom of a garage door. Folks with one-piece tilt up garage doors can install a door sweep similar to the type used on swinging doors. Though larger and longer, the concept is the same. Most overhead doors are manufactured with a vinyl gasket at the bottom of the door. Unfortunately, over time, this gasket can become brittle and cracked, thus losing its effectiveness. It can, however, be replaced in minutes. Depending up the style of your door, you might be required to order this material from a garage-door company.
QUIKRETE: PATIO PAVERS
Installing pavers is a relatively simple way to expand your home’s outdoor living space with an attractive patio, walkway or entryway. The variety of pavers available offers plenty of possibilities in creating decorative and functional hard surfaces which will add value and enjoyment to your home.
To ensure your paver surface retains its beautiful appearance, you can use QUIKRETE™ PowerLoc Jointing Sand; a polymer-modified sand specially designed for sweeping into paving stone joints or replacing existing joints. Once placed and dampened, the non-staining sand hardens to lock pavers in place, resulting in a surface which is resistant to erosion, weed growth and insects.
Homeowners on the lookout for creative ways to add beauty and value to their home need only to look beneath their feet. As seen at upscale shops, restaurants and model homes, decorative finishes lend interest and sophistication to otherwise dull concrete floors.
Etching stains applied to exterior surfaces (or interior floors) create a multi-toned finish to compare with natural stone, weathered marble or tile. The color tone is permanently imprinted into the concrete as the etching stain chemically reacts with the concrete, resulting in a finish that will last.
Transform any exterior concrete surface or outdoor living space with QUIKRETE™ Etching Stain, available in rich earth tones (Coffee, Tan and Olive), and QUIKRETE™ Etching Stain High Gloss Sealer. Delivering a clear, high-gloss topcoat, the sealer enhances the durability and color depth of the permanently etched concrete.
Owning to its unique appearance, affordability and high durability, concrete countertops continue to gain popularity as the material of choice for kitchens – indoor or outdoor. Concrete countertops can be customized to individual specifications with a variety of decorative colors, stains, finishes and optional features for far less cost than using stone or even hiring a professional.
QUIKRETE™ Countertop Mix is a self-consolidating, construction-grade material designed for cast-in-place and pre-cast concrete countertops. The mix can be used in conjunction with QUIKRETE™ Concrete Sealer and QUIKRETE™ Liquid Cement Colors, available in red, brown, buff, charcoal and terra cotta, to create beautiful custom-made countertops.
Composting – It's All About Layers
One Carey brother began his career in home improvement at the ripe
old age of nine–working as a gardener-handyman for an aunt and uncle who had
a large home and garden. The job required his presence on parts of three weekdays
and all day Saturday.
The projects ranged from cleaning wood floors, painting wood windows
and repairing fencing to pulling weeds, mowing lawns, trimming hedges, pruning
roses and fertilizing plants. Scheduled to last for a summer, the job became a
nine-year odyssey and the beginning of a lifelong interest in gardening and home
The landscape maintenance part of the job generated much material
that was hauled off by the local garbage company. The leaves, lawn clippings,
weeds, shrub- and hedge trimmings would fill a dozen garbage cans in a week. That
was before America's landfills began to overflow and recycling became an environmentally
friendly alternative. At the same time, our aunt and uncle were spending a lot
for fertilizer to keep the garden green and filled with colorful flowers.
It wasn't until adulthood that we learned that they could have saved
a lot in garbage fees and commercial fertilizer by manufacturing their own fertilizer
through the process of composting. The very materials that the garbage company
was hauling away–grass clippings, leaves, kitchen scraps, weeds, etc.–were
ideal ingredients for a compost pile. If you combine these with air, moisture
and manure, and properly layer and cover them, in a few weeks you'll have a batch
of compost. Compost can be used to amend soil for lawns, gardens, ornamental plants,
trees and potted plants.
One of the most appealing aspects of a compost pile is that it can
be located virtually anywhere in your yard except up against your house or a structure
that you value–such as a fence or arbor. The same macro organisms (bugs, etc.)
that aid in the composting process can become a pest control problem. Thus, it
is recommended that a compost pile or bin be kept at least 2 feet from any structure.
All you need to build and maintain a compost heap is a pitchfork,
shovel, water hose, ax, string trimmer, wheelbarrow, garden gloves and one or
more compost bins. Although a bin is not strictly necessary, it is useful in keeping
your pile looking neat. And it helps retain moisture and heat, both of which are
integral to the process. A bin will also protect the material from being disturbed
or scattered by wind or foul weather. A bin can also prevent wayward animals and
pests from making a meal of your compost.
A compost bin can be built from scratch or you can buy various
styles of ready-made models.
A 9-foot length of welded-wire fabric (3 feet high) will make a good bin when
formed into a circle and wired together at the ends. Another popular design consists
of chicken wire nailed to a frame made of 2 by 4s. Use redwood or cedar to improve
lasting-quality, and avoid pressure-treated material to prevent toxicity in the
compost–especially if it is to be used in a vegetable garden.
An inexpensive bin can be made using four wooden pallets to create a
box. These bins cost almost nothing, and most of the construction work is already
done. A bonus is that you are diverting pallets that might otherwise end up in
landfill sites. It doesn't get much more environmentally friendly than that.
Assembling the pallet bin is easy; screw or wire three of the
pallets together to create three sides of a box. Attach bolt latches to the front
edge of the bin and to the remaining pallet to make a removable door.
No matter what materials are used to construct your compost bin, it
needs to be open-sided to allow for good air circulation–a must for composting.
The size of the bin should range from 3 feet to 5 feet across, and should be no
more than 5 feet high.
The secret to a successful compost pile is much like making good
lasagna–it's all about layers. The classic organic gardener's recipe for compost
calls for a layer of vegetable matter about 6 inches thick, a layer of manure
about 2 inches thick–no pet manure, please–and a thin layer of soil with ground
limestone added. This layering sequence is repeated until the pile is 3 feet to
5 feet high. A small depression or well should be made at the top for watering.
After about two weeks, bacteria will have converted much of the
material in the pile to compost and caused it to heat up. By this time, the bacteria
will probably have run out of oxygen and the pile therefore must be turned to
be aerated. In another week or two the compost can be worked into your soil. Large
clumps that remain can be composted in the next batch.
A compost pile thrives on kitchen waste such as coffee grounds and
egg shells. Even feathers, wood ashes, ground stone and shells can be composted
along with yard wastes. Avoid meat and bones, large amounts of sawdust, pet manure
and metallic or plastic objects.
Composting is one of the most direct and beneficial forms of
recycling in existence.
KAREL’S KORNER: Posture and Core Strength
To strengthen for proper posture, you need to strengthen for stabilization. Training for mobilization will only strengthen for mobilization. In other words, doing crunches and strengthening abdominal muscles through certain range of motion, does not necessarily help maintain a good day-to-day posture.
The stresses induced on our spines vary depending on our body position. People are often surprised to learn that sitting actually places more stress on spinal structures than standing.
A postural exercise program which includes special and partially emphasized isometric contractions can be a tremendous help. Certain muscle groups such as the hip flexors, iliacus, erector spinae, latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, trapezius, quadratus lumborum and the deep spinal rotators, the multifidus, can be worked in a proper sequence to allow for neurological adaptation. The body will than be most likely to seek a more neutral spine position when seated. Thus, decreasing the amount of stress on the spine.
The simple awareness of spinal musculature will also help develop a deeper understanding of the importance of specific training. Proper spinal stabilization and mobility training allow the load to pass through the joints without causing a lot of shearing. This type of stress over time can develop into Degenerative Joint Disease.
All of us, including myself, want to remain active in our later years. Activity has a direct correlation to maintaining proper muscle mass.
Building a Redwood Deck
The addition of a wood deck is an easy and economical way to improve your home.
Most single level decks have the same components. However, each element will vary in size and quantity depending on the shape and size of the deck. The piers should be made of concrete, the frame that supports the decking should be a pressure-treated material and the deck boards should be cedar, redwood or some other weather-resistant lumber. We do not suggest painting deck boards, and we also feel uncomfortable about suggesting the use of pressure-treated material for any surface that will be walked on in bare feet, or that can be chewed by a toddler.
The chemical used in the pressure-treating process is a pesticide. The underside of the deck will be stronger and more weather-resistant if pressure-treated material is used. Normally, this area is inaccessible to small children.
The quality of a wood deck begins with the integrity of its concrete foundation. Although there are only a few basic types of foundations, it is a good idea to check with an engineer to make sure the type you intend to use is adequate. Deck foundations normally consist of a combination of precast concrete pier caps supported by poured-in-place concrete footers. The footer is simply a hole in the ground filled with concrete. The size and depth depends on prevailing soil conditions. Where footer dimensions will vary, the precast pier cap is a standard hardware item that is readily available. For best results, carefully level each pier cap before the supporting footer concrete dries.
The frame can consist of wood beams supported by piers or beams and piers with a layer of joist on top. Beams are used alone when there isn't enough room for two layers of framing. And, beams are more cost-effective when used without joist. Less material, less expense. Where floor joist are used at 16- or 24-inch centers, beams can be as much as 4 feet apart. We like the girder joist combination because it is stronger, but if you have a limited budget, go for beams only. Keep in mind that the deck frame will be exposed to the elements and should be assembled with fasteners that are coated to prevent rust and corrosion.
As we noted earlier, we feel good about using pressure-treated material for the framing parts. But, we prefer to use either cedar or redwood for naturally finished surfaces such as the decking and rails. However, pressure-treated southern yellow pine is OK if a painted finish is desired. Cedar and redwood contain natural resins that resist insect attack and moisture damage, and provide a luxurious natural-wood look. When lightly oiled, these materials become even more weather-resistant. If you like the knotty pine look, consider Alaskan yellow cedar. It looks like knotty pine, but is weather-resistant whereas pine is not. By the way, if redwood is the choice, consider using construction heart. It is moderately priced and reasonably knot-free.
A tip that will help to reduce rot: Wood rots when it remains wet for long periods of time and wood-to-wood connections have a tendency to retain water. Wet wood means rotten wood. Eliminate wood-to-wood connections by insulating them with strips of plastic. You can use old plastic trash bags. Siding paper or roofing felt also works. Staple a strip of the plastic or felt to the top edge of each floor joist so that the strip insulates the joist from the decking. By preventing the two wood surfaces from coming into direct contact, water retention, and accompanying wood rot, is minimized. Insulating material is not required when hidden deck fasteners are used. These fasteners not only give a clean look, they also provide a space between the joist and the decking, ensuring a connection that will dry almost as quickly as fully exposed surfaces.
When decking is installed at other than right angles to the joist, there can be as much as a 20-percent waste. We don't rule out installing decking at an angle, but we do point out that there is some additional labor and material cost involved.
Handrails are required for safety when a deck is 30 inches or more above ground. Handrails also can be used to divide (and define) areas within a deck or to separate the deck from other areas of the landscape. It is important to check the current building code when preparing to build handrails. This code tells how much weight a handrail must resist to qualify as safe. The code specifies the maximum space allowed between rail surfaces (horizontal or vertical). Remember that toddler we mentioned earlier? Well, using the proper spacing will prevent little heads from getting stuck between spindles.
If you need help constructing a deck, there are a couple of great resources that offer inexpensive planning tools. The California Redwood Association has created a deck-building kit that includes everything needed to design a deck including instructions, deck and furniture templates, graph paper, and even construction details drawn to scale. Contact the CRA by dialing (415) 382-0662.
Redwood for Green Living: The original low-maintenance deck is a sound environmental choice
Plan ahead and you can accentuate your home and outdoor living space. You can have shade when and where you want it. You can get the look you want from day one and as your deck ages. You can build the perfect gathering place and stand on your commitment to living green.
Building the perfect deck today means considering environmental impact as much as it does finishing touches, railings, planter boxes, chairs or benches. Your deck can be the stuff of memories and a statement about environmental responsibility.
Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Redwood is one of the greenest building materials available– a renewable resource from sustainable forests, a scrubber of greenhouse gases, and the standard of energy efficiency.
Green building often focuses on greenhouse gases and energy. Every building material has an environmental impact, and no building material can be brought to market without consuming energy. The source of that energy can make a big difference.
Burning fossil fuels like coal and oil for energy releases greenhouse gases, and greenhouse gases contribute to global warming. Growing trees, however, absorb greenhouse gases and can help fight global warming. Whereas making plastics and concrete burns a lot of fossil fuel, harvesting redwood harnesses a lot of solar power.
All trees absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen; that’s basic photosynthesis. The faster trees grow, the more carbon they absorb and store in their trunks, branches, and roots. Redwood grows extremely fast, making managed redwood forests perhaps the most efficient scrubbers of greenhouse gases in the world.
Redwood lumber plays the next role in the carbon removal cycle. Redwood lumber takes the carbon that was absorbed in the forest and keeps it in decks and fences.
So the next time someone talks to you about greenhouse gas emissions, you can tell them you’ve got a half-ton or so of carbon stored in your back yard, locked away in your redwood deck!
Sustainable Forests, Durable Lumber
Green building also considers sustainability – can we continue to use a particular building material, or is there a risk of exhausting the resource? Redwood is sustainable by law and in practice.
Redwood decking and fencing comes from privately owned, second- and third-growth forests along California’s central and north coasts. California has established some of the highest environmental standards in the world for its private forests. State law protects water quality, wildlife habitat and other forest resources. It mandates that growth exceed harvest and requires long-term management plans.
Furthermore, 80 percent of private redwood forests are certified sustainable and well managed under the nation’s two leading independent forest certification systems (the Forest Stewardship Council, or FSC, and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, or SFI).
There are more than 1.7 million acres of redwood forests in California today, about 95 percent as much as there was 200 years ago. There are more trees on those acres than ever. More than 350,000 acres and 95 percent of all old-growth trees are set aside in public lands and preserves.
The redwood at your lumber yard is grown in thriving forests, harvested with computer-aided precision and milled by laser-guided saws. Its legendary color and durability are uniquely redwood, just as redwood is uniquely green.
Part of the beauty of redwood is that you get to choose how you want it to age over time and just how much effort you want to put into maintaining it. A simple finish can help keep the warm red tones prominent, or you can go au natural and let the heartwood take on a distinguished, weathered look. Either way, redwood stays resistant to insects and decay.
If you choose to finish your deck, use a product that contains a water repellent, a mildewcide and ultra violet protection. Here are some simple guidelines to consider before finishing your redwood deck:
For details on finishing redwood decks, deck construction tips and redwood project plans visit www.calredwood.org.
***** Charlie Jourdain is president of the California Redwood Association.