Home Improvement, Add a Ceiling Fan

Ceiling FanIn our modern era some people might view a ceiling fan as a thing of the past, but that’s just not so. In fact, many contractors are adding ceiling fans in new construction. Lets look at the benefits of having a ceiling fan.

A Ceiling Fan has multiple uses. First, which is obvious, they move air. The downdraft of a ceiling fan has a cooling effect that is very noticeable in the summer heat. This can be especially nice in older homes that do not have central air conditioning. Depending on where you live, a house without AC may not be all that uncommon. In addition to moving the air for you, many models also incorporate lighting as well. We won’t go into all the styles that are available, but there are numerous ones to choose from. Lets consider a home with central air. The thermostat is most likely located on a wall at about shoulder height. This means that the temperature measured is from the center of the room. Since hot air rises, and cold air sinks, your room will have an uneven temperature. With the use of a ceiling fan, the air is circulated to help provide an even temperature which in turn helps to reduce the load on your central air conditioning. What does that mean to you, simply lower energy use which also means fewer dollars spent on cooling. That’s got to be an incentive for anyone to install one.

Ever think that a ceiling fan could help heat your home? Well, it can. Most new ceiling fans have a reversing switch which allows you to run the fan in the opposite direction. During the cooler months when you have the heat on, this feature helps to circulate all that hot air trapped at the ceiling back down along the walls of the room to mix with the colder air sitting on the floor. As with most people, when my feet are cold I want to turn up the heat. By keeping the heat evenly distributed in the room we maintain a more comfortable space, which in turn allows us to turn down the thermostat. Once again, less energy used equals less money spent on heating bills.Ceiling Fan

Believe it or not, a ceiling fan can help you outdoors too. Have you tried to sit on your porch during the summer in the late evening only to have it spoiled by mosquitoes? Mosquitoes love it when it’s humid and very little wind. By installing a ceiling fan on your porch you can create a nice breeze that will deter these pesky insects form lighting on you. Many manufactures offer units that are for outdoor use. They are specially designed to resist moisture and stand up well in the relatively unprotected area of a porch or covered patio.

Installing a ceiling fan is as easy as replacing a light fixture. Any fan that you buy will have detailed instructions on how to install the unit and how to operate it. As with any electrical work, make sure that the electricity is turned off at it’s source (the homes breaker box) before attempting the installation. Just turning off the light switch for the ceiling light you are replacing with the ceiling fan is not good enough. The switch only breaks the electrical circuit on one wire, which means that power is still present at the light fixture. To check to see if the power (electricity) is off, turn on the light switch and then locate the right breaker in the homes electrical service breaker box and turn it off. Check to see that the light is out before continuing with your ceiling fan installation.

Follow the manufactures installation instructions for a trouble free home improvement that you can enjoy year round. Have fun with you home improvement project.

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Home Improvement, A Family Affair

Home Improvement Projects impact the entire family, make sure you include everyone in the household inHelping Hands your project. Family members are a great source for new ideas and different points of view.

Have a little family meeting and discuss what you have in mind. You’ll be surprised at the response you’ll get. Just start simple and let everyone express their ideas on the project and what they see the final result might be. Remember that two heads are better than one, and the more people that are involved in the beginning the better thought out your project will be. These insights will help you to incorporate their input into the most crucial stage of your project, the planning stage.

It’s a lot easier to change a plan than it is to modify a project after it has begun. Depending on how far along you are with construction, changing the plan could cost you more money. That’s something that you want to avoid.

Another benefit to involving the whole family is that they are more likely to be willing participants in the project when they have been included in it from the beginning. You’ll need help along the way and it’s always nice to have someone there that wants to help.

Remember that the final result is to have a home improvement project that will benefit the entire family, one which all can enjoy.

Have fun with your project.

Basic Electrical, Replacing an Outlet

There are several reasons that you might need to replace an electrical outlet. You may have just painted a room and need to coordinate the color of your outlets and switches to match, or maybe your upgrading from old worn out ones, whatever the reason, here is how you can do it yourself.

Circuit TesterThe first thing that you want to do is make sure that you have cut off the power to the outlet before you begin. Electricity has no sympathy for an honest mistake, so be sure the power is off on the circuit that your working on. It’s easy to do, just use a circuit tester like the one in the picture, or plug a lamp into the outlet and turn it on. Then go to your breaker box and locate the right switch for the outlet circuit and turn it off. Be aware that not all circuit breakers are marked correctly, if at all in some homes, that’s were the circuit tester or lamp comes in. After you’ve turned off the circuit, check to see if the tester or lamp is off, if so your ready to continue, if not, try a different circuit until you get it turned off. Never attempt to change an outlet or switch with the power on.

You only need 2 tools to install a new outlet, a pair of wire strippers and a screwdriver like I have picturedStrippers and Screwdriver here. I like a multi-screwdriver with reversible tips. That way I have the right screwdriver for nearly any screw. The wire strippers I have pictured allow you to trim back wire insulation if you need to, and have a nice plier type tip to assist you in bending the wire if needed as well.

Start by removing the center screw in the cover plate and removing the plate. It might be stuck to the wall from old paint, just pry it loose and it’ll come right off. There are 2 screws that hold the outlet to the wall box, one at the top and one at the bottom, just crew these out to allow you to pull the outlet out of the wall box. Now you can see the wiring. Some older homes only have two wires, a black one (hot wire) and a white one (the neutral). In a newer home you should have a bare ground wire to.

Remove the wires form the old outlet by loosening the screws that secure them to the outlet. When wiring up the new outlet be sure to put the black wire on the gold colored screw and the white wire on the silver screw. These screws are also marked on the back of the outlet so you can’t get them mixed up. This ensures that the polarity is correct for the outlet. The bare wire goes on the green screw (ground). When making these connections, you want to make a hook with the end of the wire (like in the picture) to go around the screw, then tighten the screw. Make sure that all wires are connected correctly and all screws are tight, even the screws that don’t have wires on them should be run all the way in.

Push the outlet back into the wall box and secure with the top and bottom mounting screws and install your new cover plate.

It’s a good ideal at this point to have a circuit tester, so when you turn the power on you can check to see if the connections are correct. The tester has a legend on it so that you can easily see if your outlet has the right polarity and ground. It’s a good idea to to check all outlets in your home, this can indicate a potential problem with your wiring if your outlets don’t test good.

And that’s all there is to it. Remember to be safe when dealing with electricity, and have fun with your home improvement projects.

GARDENING, Know Your Soil

Ever think that you have a brown thumb instead of a green thumb? It might not be your thumb at all, it could be your soil. Just because the weeds like your soil doesn’t mean that what you want to plant will like it. In this post we will take a look at types of soil and what you can do to improve it. So lets get started.

Clay soil looks just like it’s name sake, it’s a heavy and usually fertile soil, but it’s sticky and clumps together. Clay is difficult to work, it has tiny compact particles with hardly any air pockets and it can’t drain freely. It is also easily compacted when walked on. This leaves it to wet in the spring and when it dries out later in the year it cracks and forms solid clumps. This condition is bad for establishing root growth.

Sandy soil has larger particles that are irregularly shaped. This means that the soil resists being packed together and freely drains water away. There are plenty of air pockets. This means that water can wash through it taking with it nutrients that plants need.

Silt soil falls roughly between clay and sand and is usually fertile. But, like clay, it is easily compacted.

Loamy soil is a combination soil. It contains both clay and sand as well as silt. What this means is that it will drain excess water, maintain nutrients, and retain it’s shape longer (less washout).

The other essential factor of your soil that will affect the plants you can grow is acidity or alkalinity. This is measured on a pH scale, the mid point of which is 7. 7 means that the soil is neutral. Acidity increases as the number gets lower than 7, and alkaline increases as the number gets higher than 7.

You can obtain a meter (like the one shown in picture above) from any garden supply store. It only costs a few Soil Tester Kitdollars and is well worth your investment. A few plants, such as azaleas, need acidic conditions to thrive. Others, such as lilacs, prefer slightly alkaline soils. You can reduce the acidity of your soil by adding lime, but you should do this a few weeks before planting.

To access your soils drainage, dig a few holes randomly in your garden about 12 inches deep, and about 4 feet apart. Fill the holes with water and see how fast it drains. If the water disappears withing 24 hours, you have good draining soil. If not, you may have a drainage problem. You can correct this by digging deeply and adding plenty of well rotted organic matter and grit (like sand) to the soil.

You also should test your soil for nutrient content. You can get soil test kits from your garden suppliers as well. Just follow the instructions on the kit to determine your soil nutrient levels. There are a lot of ways to increase the nutrient level in your garden. Some include using fertilizers, but keep in mind that to much processed fertilizer can actually harm your garden, the ideal natural fertalizer is manure or compost. Natural organic fertilizer will add more nutrients to your soil without any of the harmful side affects of chemical ones.

Check your soil, and have fun with your gardening.

ADD A WALKWAY To Your Garden

By JP, April 17, 2008

A garden can be a wonderful place to nurture your green thumb, and express yourself. Adding a walkway to guide you and your guests through your garden is an attractive and useful way to add character and texture to your outdoor living space.

A walkway can be as simple as stepping-stones or as elaborate as multicolored cobblestone. You can keep it simple, or incorporate designs into it. It’s really up to you. Stone can provide you with that natural feel. A simple garden would benefit from a decorative gravel path, or maybe even flagstone. Or if you choose, a structured pattern like brick can add a new dimension to your garden. Add something as simple as a bench and you have a nice focal point for you and your guests to sit and enjoy your outdoor space.

Construction of a walkway is relatively simple. Straight walkways are easy to layout because they use straight lines and 90-degree angles. But you may find that adding curves to your design will give a more fluid affect. You can do this kind of layout easily. Simply lay out the border with rope or a garden hose.

After you get your layout like you want it, the sod and soil will have to be removed to a depth that will make room for the base material, sand, and whatever type of surface you have chosen for your walkway. The base can be compacted soil or fine gravel known as crusher run, which should be compacted as well in order to give a solid, flat surface. The next layer is usually leveling sand, which makes it possible to level natural stone more easily, and is used to form a level surface for pavers as well. You need to wet the leveling sand and then smooth it out using a 2×4 or other long, straight edge to do the job. Then it’s just a matter of getting your stone or pavers down. Make sure you secure the edges with a border, or more compacted soil, so your stone or pavers can’t move.

Explore the possibilities and have fun.

Drywall Repairs, Quick and fast repairs for your wall.

by JP, April 13, 2008

We all have seen those little imperfections on our walls that annoy us. Those holes left by picture hangers and nails, and those drywall nails or screws used to hang the drywall that has pulled back through. (There are other names for drywall such as wallboard, gypsum board, gypboard, and Sheetrock a brand name). These are easy to fix.

Before we start to fill these little problems, we need to prep the areas first. Sounds complicated but it isn’t. If you are fixing a protruding nail just drive it back in with a hammer that has a smooth rounded head, this will leave a dimple in the wall surface. Be sure that you do not drive the nail so far in that it tears through the outer surface of the drywall. If the nail has pulled in, just leave it; we will fill over the indention that is there. Now, if you have a small hole left by hanging a picture, you only have to worry about it if it has some material that has lifted from the surface. I do not recommend that you hit it with the hammer to smooth it out, this might cause more damage, just use a sharp razor knife and cut a bevel around the hole towards its center. Be sure to remove all of the raised material. This will create a dimple that is now ready to be filled.

Now we are ready to fill our holes. The best thing to use to fill these little holes is Spackle, which you can get at any home improvement store. Or you can use joint compound, (but that usually comes in large buckets which would be to much for small repairs). Just push the Spackle into the hole using a small putty knife, or for those really small holes just use your finger. Let your repair dry completely and then check it to see if it has left a small recess in the surface. Some holes, if large enough, will leave a recess when the Spackle dries due to shrinkage. Just apply another coat. Don’t worry if your patch is a little raised, in fact it is preferred, we will fix that next.

When the patch all is dry, its time to sand it smooth with the surrounding surface. Use a piece of sandpaper, medium or fine grade (180 to 220 grit works well) to sand it flush with the rest of the wall. If the holes are really small, using a damp cloth will accomplish the same thing, just be sure not to wash out your repair.

That’s all there is to it, now your ready to paint.

Home Improvement – Getting Started

by JP, April 5, 2008

Well, it’s spring! And spring fever is no doubt getting your creativity perking with ideas on your next home improvement project. Whether you’re a beginner or seasoned veteran I’m sure you’ll find something here to help you along. Remember that improvements can be as simple as a piece of furniture, new paint, room remodeling such as kitchen or bath, adding a porch or deck, patio, or even gardening. There are so many things that you can do to improve your living space that the list is endless.

But before you get out the paintbrush, hammer, or even shovel, read on. There are a lot of things that you should consider first before jumping into it. So lets take a few minutes to go over the most important ones.

Before you start your project put together a plan. It will help to put you ideals down on paper. This should be an outline of sorts that will define what your goal is. This should look like a list. The next step is to break down your goal into what comes first and what comes next, we call this prioritization. For example, lets say your project is to remodel your bathroom. Start your list with a title of “Bathroom Remodel”, and next list the items that you want to replace. Such as flooring, fixtures, bathtub, shower, toilet, and so on. Since you need a floor before you set things on it, it should be near the top of the list. Consider the next items to be installed and you’re on your way to creating a priority list, just number them 1, 2, 3, and so on.

Ok, so now you have your list to go by, what do you do now? Chose the specific items that you want, and get prices! This will help you determine how much the basics are going to cost you. Visit your local home improvement store or search online. The size and scope of your project will definitely determine how much you will spend, and influence your choices as well.

Now is the time to decide if your home improvement project is something you can do or is it something that you’ll have to hire someone else to do for you. Consider if there is plumbing or electrical work involved, and are you knowledgeable enough to perform these types of repairs? The next thing to consider is “do I have the money for my project?”

And last, but not least, are there any city, local, or municipal laws or regulations that cover the type of home improvement that you want to do? I cannot stress the importance of this one enough! Depending on your area, you may be required to get a permit (which is usually a percentage of the estimated total coast of the project which must be paid before the project begins in order to obtain the permit) and may also include an official inspection of items that must meet code, such as electrical wiring and plumbing. Depending on where you live, you may not be allowed to do certain types of work yourself, like electrical or plumbing. You may have to have a contractor do these things for you. If your doing the improvements, it is your responsibility to KNOW when these inspections are required. After all, it wouldn’t make much sense for the inspector to come by to inspect electrical wiring after the walls and ceiling has been put up! It’s disheartening, and expensive, to have to pull that entire new wall and ceiling out to get his ok. If you’ve contracted for the work on your improvements, your contractor will usually obtain the permits and inspections as the work progresses. Also, if you are going to hire a contractor, be sure to get a quote, the rule of thumb is get three quotes and choose your contractor carefully. Check with your local municipality to find out your responsibilities and/or your contractors (and please, if you get a contractor, be sure he has insurance! Otherwise you may be responsible for injuries or other mishaps that happen on your property!).

What if you decide that you can’t afford the home improvements you want! Well, there are ways of getting the money to pay for your project.

Stay tuned; I will be adding more in the days to follow on many of the subjects of home improvement that I’m sure you will be interested in.