In This Issue...

Sponsored By:

Family Handyman
Family Handyman





Other Ideas...

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:



How to Maintain Appliances

Did you know that the average American homeowner depends on at least seven appliances to accomplish day-to-day routines? Among them are the refrigerator, freezer, range, range hood, dishwasher, disposal, compactor, clothes washer, dryer, blender, mixer, bread maker, popcorn popper, toaster, toaster oven and vacuum cleaner. And, you probably can name at least five more.

Every appliance contains either a heating element or moving parts, or both - a combination that always ends up requiring maintenance in one form or another. Here are a few tips we think you'll enjoy putting to use in your home:


Most folks know about cleaning the lint filter in the dryer. Too much lint, air won't pass, the machine works harder, your energy bill goes up and clothes take twice as long to dry. And, there are other wise decisions you can make to get the most for your hard-earned laundry dollar. A well-maintained laundry set can last 12 years or more.

Don't ever overload any appliance - especially your washer or dryer. Overloaded appliances aren't as efficient. You might think that you are saving money by doing more per load, but that isn't the case. Things can backfire. An overloaded washer won't clean as well and the clothes won't ring out as thoroughly. The heavier "wet" load can and will wear the washer out faster. Putting wet clothes into the dryer will make it work harder and clothes might have to be dried twice as long, or even longer. This overuse will wear out both machines long before their time.

If you live in a cold climate, don't use the cold water setting during winter. When the temperature of the water in the washer drops below 70 degrees, the water isn't warm enough to dissolve detergent - and that includes liquid detergents. When detergent doesn't dissolve, clothes don't get clean.

Never, never use too much detergent. When too much detergent is used a residue can build up on the outside of the tub. Ultimately, the buildup will break away from the tub and stain clothing.

The big moving part in the dryer is the drum. A rubber belt drives it. Rubber can wear out, and when it does the belt slips. When the belt slips the motor still turns at the same speed, but the dryer doesn't. When this happens clothes don't dry as quickly. And as the belt slips, it wears faster.

Check your dryer vent regularly. To be fire-safe, it should be clean and unobstructed. Also, when air flows freely through the exhaust duct, the dryer works more efficiently. The dryer should exhaust through your roof or out through a wall. Never into the basement or crawl space or attic. Warm air in the attic or crawl space can cause excessive condensation and, ultimately, mildew and rot.


Experts say the big energy hog in a home is the refrigerator. Where you might use your laundry once or twice a week, a refrigerator runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Here, regular maintenance can lower your energy bill and allow your refrigerator to last 15 years or more.

A refrigerator that is 10 years old or older should be defrosted at least once every three months. An older refrigerator is more likely to break down. When a refrigerator shuts down, it defrosts. When it defrosts, it can flood the room and cause a lot of damage. A refrigerator that is regularly defrosted does not create more water than can be held in the evaporator tray.

The cooling coils should be kept clean and dust-free. These coils are on the back of some fridges and on the underside of others. Heat is dissipated through these coils. A buildup of gunky pet hair, sticky lint and other common household debris can cause the compressor to work harder and eventually lead to premature wear-out. The compressor is the most expensive part to replace. You don't want to spend $400 (or more) on a compressor replacement simply because you didn't worry about lint and pet hair.

You will feel better about your refrigerator if it smells fresh and clean. Deodorize it with cat litter or baking soda. Both work wonders at absorbing odor. Clean your refrigerator on a regular basis. Here's a tip: use a bottlebrush or a toothbrush soaked in bleach to clean behind the door gasket. You won't believe the yucky gunk that builds up in that tiny crevice. Here's an appliance maintenance tip just for you right from the pages of our coming book: "Thoroughly clean at least one appliance per month in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions." If you have lost your manual, contact the manufacturer by phone or e-mail, and ask for another. Most will send you one at no charge.

KAREL’S KORNER: The Question of Meat

A lot of resources are needed to produce a little bit of meat. 25 gallons of water are needed to produce a pound of wheat, compared to 2500 gallons of water to produce a pound of meat. It takes 12-16 pounds of grain to producer 1 pound of beef. Livestock consume 80% of the corn and 95% of the oats eaten in this country. Our meat-based diet also extracts an enormous human toll. Just two meatless meals a week, would free up land to grow enough grain to feed millions of under-nourished children.

Humans by nature are not carnivores. An example of a carnivore is the large cat. Their intestinal tract is only about as long as they are, so they can eat, absorb nutrients and extract quickly. Humans’ intestines are up to 20 feed in length. This causes meat, which has a large bacterial content, to putrefy in the intestinal tract. This hinders the efficiency of internal auto-immunology and promotes congestion of eliminating organs, which are very susceptible to cancer.

Another nutritional consideration with excess meat is B-6 / methionine ratio. Meat is low in B6, which causes excess methionine. Excess methionine produces homocystine, which creates amyloids and free radicals. All this makes us vulnerable to the condition commonly known as “hardening of the arteries.”

Research shows that people who eat less meat and more grains, fresh vegetables and fruit, decrease their risk of heart disease, cancer, have lower rates of osteoporosis, diabetes, ulcers and stroke.  In short, they live longer, healthier lives.

So, in these days of shrinking resources and over-population, take a stand. You can make a difference! Consider these facts, next time you bit into a hamburger. You owe it to your kids.

For more fitness tips and to order a copy of my 'Living Proof' DVD, go

Live long and prosper,

Karel L. Nunnink

Entry and Patio Door Trends—Today’s Homeowners Expect More / Get More

First Impressions

Nothing sets the tone for the perceived value of a home like a beautiful front entryway. And door manufacturers today offer countless options and ways to turn any outdated, simple entrance into an up-to-the-minute spectacular “introduction” to your home.

Today’s entry doors are first and foremost, all about aesthetics. They are lavish and inviting, and – whether wood grained or offering a bold statement of color –  more so than ever, they also include intricate insets and panels, unique shapes (such as round tops), added thickness and/or extra height (as much as eight-feet) for added elegance and grandeur.

The use of decorative glass is also growing in popularity, both in and around entry doors. While basic side lites have long been a popular way to expand and dress-up one’s entryway, new designer glass panels – with striking combinations of bevels, etching and caning – are adding extra appeal and a highly-customized touch.

Another feature rapidly growing in popularity, is the resurgence of overhead transoms. Both fixed and operative transoms are being installed above entry doors in record numbers as a means to add beauty and bring in more light with added security, as they are situated high enough to discourage burglars and unwanted visual access to a home’s interior.

Adding to the “image” aspect of today’s entry doors are a vast array of imaginative and artful locksets and door hardware combinations that are both beautiful in design and offer more protection than ever from a security standpoint. Recent innovations include “multi-point” locking (securing three points – top, bottom and middle), the ability to repeatedly re-key locks yourself (in about 30-seconds) and affordable fingerprint scanning technology for keyless access.

Not Just Another Pretty Face

Today’s entry doors are more durable and maintenance-free as well – thanks to the evolution of manufacturing technologies such as Fiberglass, that offers the look of beautiful deep grained wood without all the headaches, such as refinishing and/or moisture related problems (warping, discoloration, de-lamination, etc.).

Energy-efficiency is another big bonus. Many entry doors now combine hi-tech inner-construction with intricate weatherstripping surrounds that serves as a tremendous barrier to severe weather conditions (both cold and hot) – often earning the coveted Energy Star® label, because they meet or exceed specific established U-value and Solar Heat Gain Coefficient requirements. Bottom line: They are money-savers too.

Patio Doors Join the Evolution Revolution

Today’s Sliders and Hinged French Doors are totally new in almost every respect. Frames are better engineered for strength, ease of operation and designed to withstand extreme weather conditions of all sorts. Framing materials are virtually maintenance-free as well.

Glass options include gas-filled double and triple glazing and new Low-E inner-coatings – that reduce heating and cooling costs and eliminate the fading of carpets and drapery caused by intense UV rays.

Patio doors also now offer numerous designer hardware options combined with greater security – that includes multi-point locking (as with entry doors).

And also, as seen with entry doors, there is another interesting trend afoot design-wise. Here too, taller doors are coming into vogue (up to 8-foot high) with an increased use of  matching side lites and overhead transoms.

Additionally, wherever possible and practical, patio sliders today are more expansive – in new homes – or they are being made wider in replacements and remodels, all in an effort to capture more light and to enhance one’s view. Yesterday’s standard double sliders are now often triple or quadruple units offering a spectacular expanse of the great outdoors with beauty, security and hi-tech energy efficiency. 

Who’s that knocking?

It’s opportunity. Today, you can improve curb appeal, comfort, livability and energy-efficiency easier than ever before – and with a great return at resale as well.

For example, a recent study performed by Therma-Tru® Doors found that an upgraded entry door with new hardware, added sidelights and an overhead transom – costing about $3,000 to $4,000 total – adds from 3% to 6% to a home’s perceived value at time of resale (upwards of $24,000), representing as much as five to six times the cost of the initial replacement.

Want more curb appeal, increased comfort, better livability and greater energy-efficiency – with a great return at resale as well?

Knock, knock. It’s at your front door right now.

Ah, The Smell of Cedar -- In The Closet

When we first drive into a mountain area, we know were there without even looking; our nose will tell us. Once youre among tall pines, spruce, redwood, whatever, the air seems to change for the better. Everything always smells clean and fresh.

Cedar is an especially aromatic wood and has other benefits too. Moths hate cedar, making the material an excellent choice for hope chests and closet flooring. In fact, there have been occasions in our remodeling company where we were asked to line not only the floor of a closet, but the walls and ceiling as well. Talk about a large cedar chest!

And although a cedar closet floor alone can do much to protect against moths there is nothing like the wonderful aroma it exudes and the feeling that you're in a forest.

Installing a cedar closet floor is really simple -- especially if you rent or own a pneumatic wire brad nailer. With a cedar floor, installation consists of interlocking tongues and grooves and fastening the material to the floor. That really is all there is to it.

OK, there are a few simple rules:

--Purchase premium material. With premium material the planks are straighter and flatter and that means easier installation and less waste. A box of premium cedar closet flooring has fewer short pieces and that means fewer joints and a faster installation. Keep in mind that the material in the box is generally sold as "random length." That means that the material inside the box varies in length. A novice would think that all of the material within is as long as its container not so.

--Make sure that the floor to be covered is flat. No bumps or lumps. No dirt or debris. Anything that doesnt belong there will telescope through the flooring as an ugly lump. A cedar closet floor will only be smooth and flat if that is the condition of the floor it covers.

Once the floor is completely clean, staple down a layer of building paper. We use 15 lb. felt. Random stapling is all that is needed here, just enough to hold the paper in place. Overlap seams (edges and ends) 3 to 6 inches. This acts as a vapor barrier, an important part of any wood floor installation. Vapor emanating from below the floor can cause hardwood flooring to buckle and twist.

Whatever you do, don't glue the floor down. Doing so eliminates the vapor barrier (a bad thing) and making repairs later becomes next to impossible. Nails should be used. Either hidden nailing or top nailing can be done.

Hidden nailing is where nails are driven into the groove of the plank and covered by the tongue of the next plank and so on. Although this procedure is not extremely difficult, it does require a bit of an experienced hand. This is because the thickness of the material at the bottom of the groove is very thin and nailing must be very precise.

Top nailing is where the nails are driven through the top of the material. Although the nailing is visible in the finished product, it is the strongest attachment of the two methods and it is the easiest and most forgiving as well. With top nailing, the first plank can be laid in the middle of the closet. Working from the center outward guarantees better alignment with surrounding walls. We like top nailing.

--Use a caulk box to snap a straight line through the middle of the closet. Snap another line parallel to it half the width of one of the cedar planks. Doing this will place the first plank dead center in the closet with the alignment line along the edge of the plank. Purists, who insist on hidden nailing, will not want to start with tongue of their first against the wall and work across the closet from there.

--Whether you top nail or blind nail, use a small pneumatic brad nailer. We prefer 18 gauge. Brads should be spaced about 7 inches apart. Also, brads from a nail gun become almost invisible when nailed.

--Leave space for expansion. There should be about a quarter to a half inch of clearance between the flooring material and the wall. This must be covered with baseboard (or in the case where baseboard already exists, a trim piece must be used). The floor must have room to expand and contract at the perimeter of the space.

--Finally, make sure that the cedar flooring is the last step in your remodeling process. Working with wall board, oils and other construction materials over a finished cedar floor can easily damage the cedar. And although it is somewhat repairable by cleaning and sanding, cedar is very soft and porous and easily damaged.

The very best thing about a cedar floor is that installation is forgiving. The irregularities in the color of the wood hide a lot of mistakes. And because cedar flooring is relatively thin, it is lightweight and easy to handle and manipulate. There arent a lot of home improvements that you can say that about.

And, thats all there is to it.

All About Skylights

A New Trend?
The origin of skylights can be traced back to ancient architects who devised openings and shafts hundreds of feet long to channel natural light deep into the inner chambers of the great pyramids of Egypt.

Centuries later, skylights and roof windows took hold in major cities all throughout Europe when they were introduced and perfected as a make-sense means to light and ventilate tightly grouped homes and apartments from overhead in densely populated urban areas.

Skylights are a relatively new phenomenon for homeowners in the United States – and for the last 25 or 30 years, their popularity has literally soared year after year.

Today, in many homes, skylights are no longer an option – they are ‘standard equipment’ – even in many production-built homes.

Quality Paves the Way
The reasons behind the ever-increasing demand for skylights – and their surge in popularity and usage – are two fold:

  1. (1) Leading manufacturers, like VELUX America, have put to rest – once and for all – the number one fear and question expressed by homeowners: “Will it leak?”

    Today’s skylights from leading suppliers are engineered and manufactured to the absolute highest standards and are paired with water-tight flashing systems, which are custom-tailored and designed specifically for various roofing materials including shingles, tile or metal.

    Quality products such as ENERGY STAR® rated  i VELUX skylights, roof windows, and Sun Tunnel™ tubular skylights are impervious to leaks. Extensive and rigorous air, water and pressure testing ensures that the products are 100% water-tight when properly installed.

  2. (2) Aside from the obvious aesthetic appeal of skylights, study after study also indicates there are many health benefits to be gained by bringing in more natural light.

    These range from psychological benefits, such as reducing the effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) – which is linked to insufficient daylight – to aiding eyesight in the elderly by providing more illumination; to name but a few. Simply put, more natural light keeps us feeling bright and offers better sight as we age.

Bringing in more natural daylight also reduces energy bills while improving safety.

And an operable skylight or roof window can improve ventilation, to discharge otherwise stagnant air associated with ‘tight home syndrome.’ These units can also help to prevent mold and mildew associated with excess moisture and condensation, which results from bathing, cooking, doing laundry and other household activities.

For more natural light – that will both brighten your home and your life – think skylights.

For more information and skylight selection literature visit or call 1-800-283-2831. For government information on window and skylight energy efficiency visit and for additional independent agency information visit or