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If you're like most folks, your home is the single biggest investment that you will make in a lifetime. Therefore, it makes good sense to do everything that you can to take good care of it.
People who get the best return on their investment...when it comes time to sell...don't wait for the roof to leak or paint to peel. They perform regular home-maintenance tasks that preserve the structural integrity of their home. Regular maintenance also keeps a home looking spiffy, which also has a lot to do with value.
Painting is a maintenance task that offers one of the best returns for the dollar...inside or out. Also, a fresh coat of paint can transform a "plain Jane" home into an eye-catcher. This can be particularly true of a stucco home since stucco has special problems, such as cracking, fading and efflorescence.
Besides enhancing appearance, a fresh coat of paint can help protect the home from the elements (sun, rain and snow) and the inevitable deterioration that occurs from prolonged exposure to them.
How often should you paint the exterior of your home? The answer depends on several factors: exterior siding material, climate, sun exposure and the quality and type of paint used. With proper preparation and top-quality paint, a home typically will require painting every five to seven years. Darker shades...as with trim colors...might need repainting every couple of years to retain their original brilliance.
Choose paint quality and color carefully. Use colors that will enhance the architectural appearance of your home. The one- or two-color schemes used in the past are just that...a thing of the past. A well-thought-out color pallet...using several colorsor shades...can be visually pleasing by accentuating various architectural elements. For example, the barge, fascia and general trim can be painted one color, the overhang or soffit another, the body another and shutters, if they exist, yet another. And you can can set it all off by using a punch color for the entry door. A reputable paint dealer and-or a professional color consultant can be of help when choosing colors.
Think of paint as an investment and not a cost. If you enjoy painting and want to paint your home often, buy inexpensive generic brands. We guarantee that you'll be busy painting every year of so. If, on the other hand, you like to paint, but would rather not enjoy the experience more often than every five to seven years, we suggest that you buy the best paint available.
Good paint isn't inexpensive, but when you consider lasting quality and the protection that it offers your home, it's a bargain. Shop for a major name brand and plan to spend about $25 a gallon.
Preparation and paint application technique are no less important than the quality of the paint. this is especially true with stucco because of the concerns mentioned earlier.
It doesn't make any difference how good the paint is; it simply won't stick unless the surface is clean. With stucco, we suggest a thorough power washing to clean the surface and remove chipped and peeling paint. Dirty areas such as the lowest section close to the ground should be scrubbed with a coarse nylon brush and powder laundry detergent. Use 1/3 cup to 1 gallon of hot water. Add 1 quart of bleach to this concoction if mildew is present.
Efflorescence...a white powdery substance that is common with stucco and masonry finishes...should be removed using a wire brush.
The most challenging aspect of prepping a stucco house for painting is crack repair. You can turn your home into an interstate road map of obvious crack repair, if you aren't cautious. When it comes to stucco crack repair, less is more. Don't attempt to patch every crack. Hairline cracks and those that you can't get your fingernail into should not be patched. High-quality paint should be used to fill those cracks.
Wider cracks should be filled with a high-quality exterior grade acrylic latex caulk. Have a damp sponge handy to wipe away excess caulking. There are two trade secrets for caulking stucco.
First, when using a damp sponge to wipe off excess caulking, wipe in all directions to remove caulking that might be lodged in a textured finish. Second, while the caulking is still wet, place fine texturing sand into the palm of your hand and, holding your hand in front of the caulking, blow across the sand to scatter it onto the surface of the damp caulk. This will help make the patch less obvious and prevent the "road-map" effect by helping the caulk blend into the surrounding finish.
Stucco can be painted using a roller or with an airless sprayer. A brush is not recommended. A roller works well for small jobs, but can be overwhelming on larger projects. For big jobs, consider using an airless sprayer. Don't put your roller away when using a paint sprayer. Spraying will get the paint onto the surface. Use a deep nap roller (3/4 inch to 1 inch) to work the paint into the surface and to achieve a uniform surface.
Although one coat might do the trick, stucco usually will require two, due to its high level of absorption and to conceal cracks and other repairs.
Patio Pavers: The Key To Elaborate Outdoor Living
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
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.
Building a Trellis
Shade is a precious commodity for any home. Besides preventing nasty sunburn, a thoughtfully placed tree or shade structure has many benefits beyond beautifying your back yard. It can lower the interior temperature of your home substantially, thus improving comfort and lowering your utility bill.
Moreover, your air conditioner won't have to work as hard which can help save on repair and maintenance costs. And, you'll be helping to save the earth by using less energy. There's more... the sun's ultraviolet rays can affect drapes, carpet, hardwood, vinyl, fabric and other precious finishes.
One means of acquiring shade is planting a fast-growing shade tree, or several trees. Another is constructing a shade structure. These range from a solid patio cover that is an extension of a home's roof, to a freestanding decorative trellis or arbor.
A patio cover is essentially a means to an end. With a solid roof, it not only provides shade, it also offers protection from the elements. A trellis, on the other hand, is a decorative structure that provides shade but little or no weather protection. A trellis can be laden with a beautiful vine that further enhances its decorative appeal.
We aren't suggesting that a patio cover can't be decorative. It just takes a bit more creative energy and a slightly bigger budget. A clever means of enjoying the best of both worlds is to create a structure that combines both styles.
Whichever style you opt for, the most important aspect of the job is the design-and-planning phase. When designing your shade structure ask:
Armed with answers to these questions, you can create your own design or have a landscape architect or designer create a design for you. Ready-made plans also can be found in magazines, books, or online. A trellis needn't be a rectangle, square or single height. It can be a conglomeration of heights and angles. Again, it all boils down to needs, preferences and budget. Check with your local building department to determine if engineering and/or a building permit will be required.
Although a structure attached to your home will have support, a freestanding structure doesn't have the same stability. Therefore, the support posts must be properly sized and well anchored. Four-by-four posts can support a small trellis with a simple design, whereas a larger, more elaborate structure might require 6-by-6 or 8-by-8 posts. The posts should be set into a concrete pier with one-third of the total length of the post in-ground and two-thirds out. The diameter of the hole should be two-to-three times the diameter of the post.
An alternative to setting the support posts in concrete is anchoring the support posts to concrete piers. This helps prevent post rot, but will require special lateral support.
If your trellis will be of wood construction, use cedar, redwood or pressure-treated material. They will offer the best rot-resistance. A penetrating oil finish (stain or wood preservative) will provide the longest-lasting, most maintenance-free finish.
With the support posts in place, the "beams" that support the "lintels" can be installed. The lintels often are also referred to as "cross pieces," "rafters" or "joist." The beams can consist of one piece of 2-by material that tie one post to another. An alternative is for two beams to run parallel to one another, notched into either side of the support post.
Use a high-quality polyurethane glue and ceramic-coated construction screw at all connections. Use through-bolts with malleable washers for added decoration.
Next, install the lintels at a right angle on top of the beams. To create uniform spacing, use a tape measure and a pencil to mark the location of the lintels before installing them. For added strength, notch the top of the beam and the underside of the lintel to create an interlocking connection.
The ends of your beams and lintels should reflect the style of the trellis. The ends can be square with a chamfered edge, they can be beveled, beveled and chamfered or scalloped... the choice is yours.
You can stop here, or you can continue with yet another layer of cross pieces that run perpendicular to the lintels. This layer is used primarily to increase the amount of shade, but can have a significant impact on the overall appearance of the finished product. These cross pieces are typically 1-by-2's or 2-by-2's that are spaced according to the amount of shade desired... generally 4-to-6 inches apart. Unlike the lintels, these cross pieces do not need to be notched. Attach them using a galvanized casing nail or ceramic-coated construction screw. Pre-drilling might be required to avoid splitting smaller material.
Stain it or paint it, and grab your shovel and finish the project by planting a beautiful vine.
KAREL’S KORNER: Freedom and Independence
We are a nation of overweight and out-of-shape citizens. It’s time to fight back and free ourselves from a host of ailments that threaten to once again rob us of our freedom. This time it’s freedom of movement and the ability to stay mobile. Exercise and meal choices are the best weapons.
Start by eating a balanced breakfast; followed by small snacks or mini meals, consisting of fresh fruits nuts and proteins throughout the day. Eat breakfast like a king; lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper.
Eliminate soft drinks and other sugary snacks and drink at least 50 ounces of water a day.
Eat some fresh deep water fish two to three times a week.
Do weight lifting exercises two to three times each week to strengthen bones and increase metabolism.
Come on folks, this is not rocket science.
Let’s re-invigorate that old American fighting spirit and fight for our good health and that of our kids.
You can get more exercise, nutrition and health tips by picking up a copy of my new “Living Proof” DVD at my website at www.overthehillfitness.com.
Live with vigor,
If you can't stand the heat: Getting a new air conditioner
During a recent heat wave, the central air conditioning system failed in our home.
An investigation by a local heating and air conditioning contractor revealed that the compressor/condensing unit had met its demise and that the unit would need to be replaced. The good news was that our unit was more than 10 years old and even when operating at its peak was at best an energy hog.
The contractor said that the energy efficiency of air conditioning equipment had improved markedly in the last decade and that new "ultra energy efficient" equipment could cut cooling costs in half. Needless to say, the prospect of cutting an out of control utility bill had great appeal.
First, it may be useful to share a bit of information on how a central air conditioning system works. Most residential central air conditioning units consist of three main elements -- a compressor, a condenser and an evaporator. With a conventional "split system," the evaporator is located within the air handler -- typically a furnace -- and the compressor and condenser are located within a radiator-clad box somewhere outside the home.
Refrigerant circulates through copper tubing that runs between the condenser and the evaporator. This refrigerant receives and releases heat as it raises and lowers in temperature, changing from a liquid to a gas and back to a liquid. The refrigerant is particularly cold when it starts to circulate through the indoor coil.
As the comfort systems fan pushes warm room air across this coil, the cold refrigerant absorbs so much heat from the air that it turns into a vapor. As a vapor, it travels to a compressor that pressurizes it and it moves through the outdoor coil, which gets rid of the heat. A fan helps to dissipate this heat. The refrigerant then passes through an expansion device which converts it to a low-pressure, low-temperature liquid, which returns to the indoor coil. And so the cycle continues.
According to Energy Star, a government-backed program helping businesses and individuals protect the environment through energy efficiency, you should consider replacing your air conditioning system with a new, more energy-efficient model that bears the Energy Star label if it is 10 years or older.
Replacing a central air conditioning system is not a do-it-yourself project. We suggest that you contact a qualified heating and air conditioning contractor who will be able to discuss the various considerations that must be made when purchasing and installing a new system.
Among the most important considerations is size. When it comes to central air conditioning, bigger isn't necessarily better. An oversized unit will experience increased operating costs and result in less comfort. Conversely, an undersized system will run much longer than it should and will likely never do an adequate job of cooling your home.
In the past, when it came to sizing a central air conditioning system, the rule-of-thumb was one ton of air conditioning capacity for every 500 square feet of living area. Today, sizing an air conditioning takes into consideration many factors and is far more complex than the old rule-of-thumb method.
Most professional heating and cooling contractors use a "Manual J" calculation to determine the size of a central air conditioning system. The Manual J Air Conditioning Sizing System was developed by the Air Conditioning Contractors of America and takes into consideration factors such as insulation, window area, roof overhang, shading, duct location -- plus other relevant information.
Oversized equipment will operate in short run times or cycles, not allowing the unit to reach efficient operation or deliver even temperatures throughout the home. Another disadvantage to an oversized unit is that it will not run long enough to adequately remove excess humidity.
Studies show that summertime operation at 78 F and 30 percent relative humidity provides the same level of occupant comfort as does 74 F and 70 percent relative humidity. This lower humidity level will provide increased comfort, lower utility bills and less risk of health issues associated with high humidity.
To reduce wasted energy, the U.S. Department of Energy has established minimum efficiency standards for air conditioners. Every unit is given an efficiency rating, called a SEER (seasonal energy efficiency rating). The higher the SEER rating number, the more efficient the unit and the lower the cost to provide a given amount of cooling.
Though the minimum allowable SEER rating for a new central air conditioner has been 10, it will increase to 13 in January 2006. Ultra-efficient models have a SEER rating of 15 to 18.
When it comes to efficiency, don't be confused by terminology. "High efficiency" models meet the minimum SEER standard of 10. "Super-high" efficiency models have a SEER rating of 11 to 12 and "ultra-high" efficiency models are 12 and up.
To achieve a high SEER rating, an air conditioner may employ many energy-saving features: typically large coils for more efficient heat transfer and variable speed blower and fan motors to reduce electricity consumption.
Don't forget about your homes duct system. All too often, old heating and air conditioning systems are replaced without giving any thought to the old duct work. Properly installed and maintained duct work can last 20 years or more. But time, heat and humidity can degrade your ducts insulation. Over the years, your ducts may have collected contaminants that should be removed.
Have some of the rooms in your home been less comfortable than others? Have your contractor evaluate the amount of air each room should get and verify that your duct system is clean and configured to deliver the right air to the right rooms. It may even be time to consider replacing your duct system.
Redwood for Green Living
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:
1. Apply finish to clean dry surfaces on windless days. Temperature should be between 50 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. New structures built with unseasoned wood should air-dry for one month before finishing.
3. When preparing the surface, use stiff bristle brushes, not wire brushes or steel wool.
4. Follow manufacturer’s directions and read warnings on toxicity. Don’t mix incompatible materials.
5. To avoid nail stains, use stainless steel, aluminum, or top quality, hot-dipped galvanized nails.
6. Keep your deck free of dirt and other debris. Periodic rinsing with a garden hose can prevent grime and dirt build-up.
Exactly how often you choose to refinish the deck will depend on the look you want, how often your deck is exposed to extreme weather, and other factors. Keep in mind that finishing your redwood deck on a regular cycle can help make the job easier each time.
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.)