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March 2014


Beacon Communications

Spring Forward Home improvement projects perfect for spring

Building On a Budget

How to cut costs on your home improvement project

Seal the Deal

How sealing your driveway can extend its life expectancy

Spring Home • March 2014 • 2

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6 Transitional cabinetry style with a New England twist 7 Home projects perfect for spring 8 How to inspect for roof damage 9 How to repair and replace window screens 9 The basics of cleaning windows 10 How to cut costs on your home improvement project 12 Home improvement tips learned the hard way 13 Pros and cons to air duct cleaning 14 Ideas on restoring secondhand furniture 15 Improving attic ventilation benefits the roof and more 16 Sealing a driveway can extend its life 17 Lighting sets the stage for outdoor fun 17 9 ways to improve curb appeal 18 Recognize termite damage 19 Make a plan for garage organization 20 Equip your home with a sump pump and battery backup 21 Practice garage and workshop smarts 22 Prioritize safety when power washing 22 Home improvement glossary

Smelly fireplace?


fter a long season of use, fireplaces need to be cleaned. Many homeowners think this is a job that can be put off until the fall, but spring is an ideal season to have the chimney and flue cleaned and inspected. One reason to include scrubbing the chimney as part of spring cleaning is to cut down on odor. After using a fireplace, a buildup of creosote forms in the chimney. As the weather gets warmer, creosote deposits can start to smell sour and that odor will seep into the home. In addition, moisture can mix with the creosote and start to degrade the flue liner, necessitating costly repairs. The sooner a chimney and flue are cleaned the better. A chimney sweep can do a thorough job of scrubbing down the chimney and fireplace and ensuring that everything will be in working order come next season.

3 • Spring Home • March 2014

4 Caution necessary when painting indoors

Spring Home • March 2014 • 4

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Caution necessary when painting indoors


ew people might think of potential safety hazards when planning to paint the interiors of their homes. Though every home improvement project can lead to injury if safety measures are not taken seriously, painting is widely considered a project where do-it-yourselfers are at minimal risk of injury. But in addition to the injury risks associated with climbing up and down ladders to paint ceilings or out-of-reach corners, there are some health and safety concerns that painters must consider before beginning their projects. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the majority of paints contain chemicals that evaporate in the air, and these chemicals can adversely affect human health. Problems associated with chemicals found in some paints include eye and throat or lung irritation, headaches, dizziness, and vision trouble. Professional painters

exposed to paint vapors over long periods of time can develop problems with their nervous systems, liver and kidneys, and some chemicals found in paint have been linked to elevated cancer risk. Though painting is often an enjoyable home improvement project, painters still must take the following precautions to ensure their safety when painting the interior of their homes. Read product labels carefully. Paints vary considerably with regard to how hazardous they can potentially be, so it’s best to read paint can labels thoroughly regardless of how experienced you are at painting. Labels provide safety instructions specific to that particular paint, including suggestions to reduce hazards and advice on what to do should users develop any adverse health effects. It also helps to reread labels once the

Paint during the right time of year. Exposure to chemicals found in paint can be reduced considerably if you paint during the right time of year. Spring and fall make ideal seasons to paint, as the weather outside during these seasons is typically pleasant, allowing painters to open all of the windows without making conditions inside the home unfavorable. Open all of the windows and doors. While it’s especially important to open all of the windows and the door in the room where you will be painting, it’s even better to open as many windows and doors throughout the home, making sure to push curtains and blinds back to let the fresh air pour in. Keeping all windows and doors (use screen doors if you are worried about animals or insects entering the home) open promotes ventilation throughout the home, allowing for constant airflow that will usher any potentially harmful chemicals out of

5 • Spring Home • March 2014

painting project has been completed. Labels often include instructions on how to clean or discard products and tools after use, as well as suggestions on where to store paints or other products used during the project that may be flammable.

your home. If necessary, place a box fan within a window frame to promote cross-ventilation. Never turn on the air conditioner as a substitute for fans and open windows, as that will not be pushing any air out of the home. Seal paint cans tightly once the project has been completed. At the end of the project, you may or may not have leftover paint. If you have a small amount of paint leftover that you do not intend to keep, contact your local government to determine the best way to dispose of the paint. You also can do this if you have empty paint cans but are uncertain if they can be discarded with normal household trash and recycling. If you have a substantial amount of paint left, be sure the lid is closed as tightly as possible, as vapors can leak through poorly sealed containers, putting the health of residents at risk. Once again, read the label to determine the best place to store leftover paint. Painting is widely considered a fun home improvement project. But if certain safety measures are not taken when painting the interior of a home, these projects can put the health of residents at risk.

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Spring Home • March 2014 • 6

Transitional cabinetry style with a New England twist


amilies tend to spend the most time together in the kitchen, and today’s kitchens are evolving to meet the needs of modern families. If your home is in need of a kitchen remodel, you should know that custom kitchens are no longer just for the rich. Customization to meet your needs can be accomplished with affordable cabinetry when creativity is used in thoughtful space planning. Consider consulting a professional kitchen designer. Some companies that sell cabinetry offer design services as part of the materials purchase price. No matter the size of the kitchen, cabinetry is a major purchase that you want to enjoy for years to come. Trying to plan it yourself or taking shortcuts can result in a layout with problems that don’t show up until you actu-

ally begin living in the kitchen. It’s actually less expensive in the long run to have the guidance of an experienced designer. Because of their expertise, they know how to work with you to design a layout that will make your life easier. You can stretch your budget with the guidance of a designer. Because of their specialized knowledge, a professional can recommend less expensive options without compromising quality. Affordable options are available in cabinetry, countertops and decorative hardware to fit any budget. The secret to success is in understanding the cabinetry construction. The most beautiful finish won’t make up for poor construction of the structure. The right selection will stand the test of time over years of use.


What about the cabinetry door style? Some people have strong personal preferences, others aren’t so sure. Online research of kitchen photos on Houzz, Pinterest or cabinetry brand websites can help you decide what you like. Magazines featuring homes are still a very popular source of ideas. One notable style trend seen at the annual Kitchen & Bath International Show was that most of the cabinetry displays had flat or recessed panel doors. Raised panel cabinetry is no longer in high demand. Transitional design is growing in popularity. Even with traditional raised panel cabinetry having been a strong preference here in New England, many homeowners are discovering that they like the sleek, clean lines rather than a great deal of detail in the doors. As shown in this example pictured, the clean lines of the transitional cabinetry door style can be used with farm-style sinks and faucets to still “feel” like a traditional New England home. This kitchen also includes decorative moulding above the cabinets and a shelf on the stove hood with moulding details, which emphasizes the traditional theme. Color is another major choice. Some people prefer to see the wood grain, and finishes run the gamut from light to dark. If you prefer a uniform color, neutrals, which have played a large role as wall colors, have now jumped into kitchen cabinet finishes. Greys, grey/whites, putty and tans

are now preferred colors over pure white for cabinets.

Often decided last, the backsplash is both practical for keeping the wall between the countertop and cabinetry clean and can add a splash of color to the

kitchen. Glass mosaic backsplash is sold everywhere now, but the 2014 twist is to have a single pane of glass with the back painted in any accent color you wish. It is easier to keep clean as it has no grout lines, and it is a sleeker look. Take your time in the planning stage and your finished kitchen will please you for years to come.


he rejuvenating spirit of spring makes this beloved season an ideal time for homeowners to take stock of their homes and properties and address any issues that arose during the winter. While some homes make it through winter unscathed, the harsh weather of the year’s coldest season can add several tasks to homeowners’ springtime to-do lists. While some projects are best left to the professionals, others can be tackled even by those homeowners with little or no DIY experience. The following are a handful of projects tailor-made for spring. Inspect the gutters Gutters tend to bear the brunt of harsh winter weather, and come spring gutters are in need of inspection if not repair. Winter winds, snow and heavy rainfall can compromise the effectiveness of gutters, which can easily accumulate debris and detach from homes during winter storms. In addition, gutters sometimes develop leaks over the winter months. As a result, homeowners should conduct a careful inspection of their gutters come the spring, being sure to look for leaks while clearing the gutters of debris and reattaching gutters that might have become detached from the home on windy winter days and nights. When reattaching loose gutters, make sure the downspouts are draining away from the foundation, as gutters that are not draining properly can cause damage to that foundation and possibly lead to flooding. Take stock of roof shingles Much like its gutters and downspouts, a home’s roof can suffer significant damage over the course of a typical winter. Shingles may be lost to harsh winter winds and storms, so homeowners should examine the roof to determine if any shingles were lost (lost shingles might even be lying around the property) or suffered damage that’s considerable enough to require replacement. Summer can be especially brutal on shingles, especially those that suffered significant damage during the winter. If left unchecked or unaddressed,

Each spring, homeowners should inspect their gutters to ensure the gutters are still attached to their homes and free of debris. problems with damaged shingles can quickly escalate into larger issues when spring rains and summer sun inevitably arrive, so homeowners should prioritize fixing or replacing damaged shingles as quickly as possible. Check for freeze damage Frozen temperatures can be hard on humans and homes alike, but unlike humans who can stay inside when temperatures dip below freezing, homes are forced to withstand the elements throughout the winter. External hose faucets are often susceptible to freeze damage. To inspect such faucets, turn the water on and then place a thumb or finger over the opening of the faucet. If your thumb or finger can completely stop the flow of water, the pipe where the water is coming from is likely damaged and will need to be replaced. Examine the lawn for low spots Once a lawn has thawed out, homeowners can patrol their properties looking for low spots in the yard or even low spots within spitting distance of the home’s foundation. Such spots increase the likelihood of flooding. Flooding near a home’s foundation increases the risk of potentially costly damage, while low spots on the lawn that go ignored can make great breeding grounds for insects, including mosquitoes, when the weather warms up. When low spots are detected, fill them in with compacted soil. Compacted soil can prevent spring rains from flooding a yard or damaging a home’s foundation. Assessing potential property damage is a rite of passage for homeowners in the spring. Though some damage is significant, oftentimes even novice DIYers can work their homes and properties back into shape in time to enjoy spring and summer.

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7 • Spring Home • March 2014

Home projects perfect for spring

Spring Home • March 2014 • 8

How to inspect for roof damage Spring is a good time to inspect roofs, which are often at the mercy of harsh conditions throughout the winter. Heavy snow, ice and biting winds can do significant damage, making spring the perfect time to assess if any such damage occurred and address any issues.


any homeowners do not think twice about their roofs. But when leaks develop, roof repairs and the subsequent costs of such work shed light on how important it is for homeowners to pay closer attention to the roofs over their heads. Though certain roof issues, like shingles lost to inclement weather, are unforeseeable, many problems can be avoided with routine roof inspection. Checking roof conditions twice a year can help homeowners avoid potentially costly repair work or even more expensive roof replacement projects.

Start the inspection in the interior of the home. Before breaking out the ladder and climbing up to the roof, inspect the home’s interior, pinpointing potential problems that may indicate roof damage. Check for stains on the ceiling which may indicate leaks that need to be addressed. Homeowners with attics should enter their attics and look for signs of water damage, making note of any damp or wet insulation. This will let you know if water has been entering the attic all winter. Pay attention to the location of any wet spots or stains so you can match them up to the exterior of the roof later on. Musty smells also may be indicative of moisture problems, even if there are no visible leaks.

Inspect the roof outside. Grab a set of binoculars and inspect the exterior of the roof. Look at the roof flashing, including around the chimney and other areas of protruding pipes and vents. If the flashing is warped or damaged, moisture might be settling underneath. Sealant around dormers or skylights can also degrade, resulting in leaks. Check for spalling on masonry, such as the mortar of chimneys. Porous areas will allow water to infiltrate. Go directly on the roof and check. Work with a partner and carefully climb on the roof while someone holds the ladder below. Walk on the perimeter of the roof, looking for peeling or warped shingles, missing shingles, holes, or scrapes. If the roof is compromised in any way, it will need to be repaired. The problem will only grow more significant and repairs more expensive if damage is ignored. Sometimes a repair can be as simple as patching a leak with a new shingle and roofing cement. Popped nails can be pounded down and any curled

shingles can be nailed or cemented back into place. Consult a roofing expert. If you are unsure if your roof has made it through the winter unscathed and would like a second opinion or if you find there is considerable damage, contact a roofing contractor. This person will offer a professional assessment of what can be repaired or if the roof should be replaced. If your roof is metal or features clay tiles, you may not have the expertise to make repairs yourself and will need to hire a professional. Check the gutters, too. While you are up on the roof, inspect the gutters and downspouts as well. Cracked or damage gutters will cause water to leak down the side of the home, potentially damaging the foundation. Clear any debris or leftover leaves from the gutters to ensure the rain can wash through unobstructed. A post-winter roof inspection can protect homeowners and their families from the elements and reduce the likelihood of potentially costly repairs down the road.

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indow screens can let fresh air into a home while preventing insects and outdoor critters from making their way inside. But screens are far less effective at keeping critters out of a home when they’re damaged. Addressing such damage is typically an easy do-it-yourself project, one that begins with gathering the right materials, including: • new screening, either synthetic or aluminum • a rubber spline • a screen rolling tool • a razor knife or sharp scissor • measuring tape • masking tape • a screwdriver or an awl Once those materials have been gathered, the process of replacing or repairing damaged screens is rather simple. 1. Measure the area of the window to determine how much replacement screening you will need. Remember to leave extra room in your measurements so you have slack to make the new screen fit taut. The measurement will also help you determine how much spline you will need. 2. Remove the screen from the window frame. Some windows do not have removable screen frames, and you will have to work on the screen in its

upright position. 3. Use the screwdriver or awl to pry the edge of the existing spline that holds the screening material in the frame. Pull out the old spline and remove the damaged screening. 4. Measure the new screening from a replacement roll. Lay the screening down on the frame, ensuring there is overhang on all sides. If necessary, use masking tape to temporarily secure the screening to the frame

while freeing up your hands. This also works if you must replace screening vertically and cannot remove the window frame and make repairs on a flat surface. 5. Take a new piece of rubber spline and push it into the edge of the screen frame, securing a corner of the new screening to the frame. Continue to press the spline around the perimeter of the screen frame firmly into the groove with the screen

rolling tool, which looks like a small pizza cutter. This effectively secures the screen into the frame. 6. Continue around the edge of the frame, pulling the new screening taut as you go. This helps to keep it free of wrinkles. 7. Once you have inserted the spline all the way around, cut it off from the spline spool and push in the edge. 8. Use a razor knife or sharp scissor to cut off the excess screening, being careful not to dislodge it from behind the spline when cutting. 9. Replace the screen in the window. In the case of small tears in a screen, a complete replacement may not be necessary. Home improvement stores sell screen patch kits. Some work by cutting out a piece of patch that is attached to an adhesive backing and sticking it over the hole. Other patches are small, woven wires that can be threaded through the hole in the screen. A really small hole can be mended with a drop of clear-drying glue. The same method of screen replacement can be used to replace screens on screened-in porches, aluminum doors or sliding patio doors. Just be sure to purchase replacement screening that will fit the dimensions.

The basics of cleaning windows After a long winter of snow and ice, many people are ready for the warmth and sunshine synonymous with spring. But dirty windows can block that sunshine from finding its way into a home. Washing windows can be quite an undertaking, particularly in those homes with many windows on multiple levels. However, there are several time-saving tips available that can cut the work considerably. Save window washing for a cloudy day. Otherwise, the warmth and sunlight may dry the cleaning solution too quickly and you will be left with streaks on your windows.

Vacuum windowsills and tracks first to remove a good deal of dust and debris. This will reduce the amount of dirt you smear onto the windows while cleaning them. Use a combination of a sponge soaked in cleaning solution and a squeegee to get really clean windows. The squeegee helps to prevent streaks and cut down on the time it takes the windows to dry, all the while helping the windows to sparkle. Window screens may be the culprit behind dingy windows. Hose down the screens with water to clean them, using a

mild cleaning solution if water is ineffective. Working with a partner can make the task go much more quickly. One person can clean the exteriors of the windows while the other does the interiors. A mild dishwashing liquid diluted in water can cut through dirt and grime. For stubborn dirt, wash windows with diluted ammonia or vinegar. Use a glass-cleaning tool to clean hard-to-reach windows. A telescoping cleaning tool and pad can make it safer to reach windows that are high up.

9 • Spring Home • March 2014

How to repair and replace window screens

Spring Home • March 2014 • 10

How to cut costs on your home improvement project


Homeowners willing and able to chip in on home improvement projects can bring the costs of labor down considerably.

ver the last several decades, more and more homeowners have embraced the notion that homes need not all be alike, and that an individual’s home can cater to his or her personal tastes and needs. The trend of modeling a home after one’s own tastes has extended beyond choosing furniture or other replaceable elements to structural changes and fullscale renovations, thus upping the financial ante for homeowners who want to turn their homes into places more in tune with their own personalities. When it comes to improving their homes, many homeowners associate cutting costs with cutting corners, which can put residents’ safety at risk. But there are ways for homeowners to save money on home improvement projects while still ensuring their homes are safe and sound. Work with recycled materials. Homeowners about to undertake small-scale do-it-yourself projects can often save money by using recycled materials. Many homeowners do not go the DIY route when making larger renovations, but those that do also can save money by using recycled materials.

However, homeowners should know that many contractors do not work with recycled materials in an effort to avoid liability should something go awry during the project or after it is completed. But DIYers can benefit from using recycled materials, which can be purchased at various locations. For example,


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Get your hands dirty. Labor costs on home improvement projects are considerable, but homeowners can cut these costs by doing some of the labor themselves. Even those men and women with little or no DIY experience can still chip in and save some money. Homeowners about to embark on a rebuilding project can chip in and do some of the demolition on their own. For example, when replacing sidewalks, homeowners can simply break up and remove the existing sidewalk on their own rather than paying their contractors to do such work for them. It’s best for homeowners to leave interior labor to the professionals, as they are more knowledgeable about how to find load-bearing walls and plumbing fixtures than the average weekend warrior homeowner. Homeowners who mistakenly take out fixtures inside their

homes in an attempt to cut down on labor costs might find such miscues are far more costly than simply paying for the labor from the get-go. Remember how flattering imitation can be. As the old adage goes, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” Homeowners working on tight budgets can opt for imitation materials that appear and feel just like more costly authentic materials. When opting for imitation materials, homeowners should know that they or their representatives cannot falsely represent the materials as authentic when selling the home, no matter how much materials look and feel like the real thing. Schedule projects during the offseason. Like many professionals, contractors have busy seasons and seasons that tend to be slow. These seasons can change depending on geography, but homeowners can save money by postponing projects until the slow season, when contractors are more likely to offer discounts in an attempt to stay busy and continue to generate income. Savings will vary depending on a variety of factors, but it’s not unlikely that patient homeowners willing to wait until

the offseason to renovate their homes can save as much as 5 percent on the overall cost of the project. Try not to customize. Though the driving force behind many home improvement projects is to create a dream home that caters to homeowners’ individual needs, going overboard with customizing is expensive. Larger-thannormal dimensions may seem like a great idea, but unless they’re absolutely necessary, they’re best avoided by

budget-conscious homeowners. Building supplies are sold at certain dimensions because those dimensions are the most common. Altering these dimensions unnecessarily is only driving up the cost of the project, so it’s best to stick with stock sizes when money is tight. Home improvement projects are often expensive undertakings. But such endeavors need not break the bank.

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Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit organization devoted to building homes for the less fortunate, operates its own ReStores, which are nonprofit home improvement stores that sell recycled building materials at a steep discount. ReStore locations can be found by visiting

Spring Home • March 2014 • 12

Home improvement tips learned the hard way


is the season for home improvement projects, and weekend warriors will soon be visiting home supply retailers to buy everything from paint to plywood. There are many advantages to making home improvements on your own, including the opportunity to test your mettle at projects big and small. Many a novice DIYer has learned the ups and downs of home improvement through trial and error. But the following are a handful of lessons first-timers can heed before beginning their maiden voyages into the world of DIY home improvements. Measure twice, cut once. Perhaps this is the best-known mantra of home improvement, yet many still ignore it. Whether you’re anxious to get started or simply because you still cannot convert metric to standard formula, you must take the time to measure twice before cutting. Learning that you’re a hair too short later will be prove frustrating and time-consuming and often necessitates a last-minute run to the store for more materials. Always measure multiple times before making cuts. Enlist a helper. Having a partner helping with the work is the most efficient way to tackle a project. This person can assist you with heavy lifting or moving things or by holding the ladder or simply passing tools your way. He or she also can manage work while you make another run to the home center for more supplies. Having a helper around also provides companionship during tedious projects. Lighten the load. You run the risk of injury, both to yourself and your belongings, if you attempt to move heavy items on your own. When moving heavy items, take steps to lighten your load. For example, empty or remove drawers from desks and dressers before moving them. Rely on sliding pads when moving furniture so items can be slid into place instead of lifted. Always ask a buddy to help move especially heavy items.

Prime before painting. Painting can be a time-consuming task. In an effort to save time, some people will look for painting shortcuts, and these may include skipping the priming portion of painting. Priming helps to cover existing paint color and prevent bleed-through of stains or darker hues to the next coat of paint. Failure to use a primer could mean having to paint coat after coat, which can become costly and take up a significant amount of time. Always rely on a priming product, or look for a paint that blends a primer within to achieve better coverage. And while you are ensuring a proper paint job, remember to use painter’s tape or an edging product to help keep paint off of moldings and trim. Use the right tools. The right tools make work safer and easier. Think about how much faster you can cut through a tree trunk with a chainsaw rather than a handsaw. Improvising or using the wrong tools for the job can cost you time and increase your risk of injury. Turn electricity off at the panel box. Be especially cautious when working with electricity, turning off the current. This means shutting down the power on the breaker box. A live wire can provide a minor shock or lead to serious injury. Take the extra time to ensure the power is off before working with any exposed wiring. Expect the unexpected. Although many renovation projects go off without a hitch, you never know what you might uncover when you embark on repairs or remodels. Homeowners have come across all sorts of hidden problems when doing seemingly minor repairs. Removal of drywall may uncover insect damage in beams or indications of water infiltration. Some people take down old paneling, only to discover it was covering heavily damaged walls beneath. One repair project can run into another when home improvements are being made. Always leave breathing room in your budget and schedule extra time for unforeseen tasks as well.


any homeowners consider having the ductwork in their homes cleaned. Mailers often tout the benefits of this service and warn of the potential hazards that could be lurking inside uncleaned vents and ducts. But whether or not air ducts need to be cleaned remains open for debate. A quick review of air duct cleaning can help homeowners make a more informed decision.

only way to remove mold and mildew from the system. Homeowners who have fireplaces may find the air becomes dirtier faster. That’s because of the residue put into the air from burning wood and other fuel. This residue not only builds up inside of the chimney in the form of creosote, but also can form a sticky, sooty layer inside of ductwork. Cleaning the ducts can remove this soot.

What is duct cleaning? Before looking into the advantages and disadvantages to duct cleaning, it is advantageous to examine the process involved when cleaning air ducts. There are two ways to have the ducts cleaned in a home: rotary vacuum brushing or high pressure air washing. Vacuum brushing utilizes a spinning brush to scrub dust and debris off the air vents and a vacuum to capture whatever is dislodged. High pressure air washing uses pressurized air blown through the air ducts. A truck-mounted industrial vacuum is attached to the furnace, and all of the air register vents in the home are covered. Once all the air ducts have been blown clear, another air wand is fed into the end of the hot and cold air supply lines. Dust and debris is then drawn backward into the vacuum.

Cons The EPA advises that no research has definitively shown that duct cleaning prevents health problems. Neither do studies conclusively demonstrate that particle (e.g., dust) levels in homes increase because of dirty air ducts. This is because much of the dirt in air ducts adheres to duct surfaces and does not necessarily enter the living space. What’s more, dirty air that enters the home from outdoors or indoor activities, such as smoking or cleaning, can actually cause greater exposure to contaminants than dirty air ducts. There also is no evidence that cleaning ducts and components of the heating/ cooling system will make the furnace or air conditioner work any more efficiently. Air duct cleaning is an expensive undertaking. On average the cost of such a service can range from $400 to $1,000, depending on the extent of the cleaning and the size of the home. Cleaning the ducts also can be dirty and time-consuming. Cleaning may spread contaminants that were lodged inside of the vents throughout the air more readily. Some cleaning services will advise the use of chemical biocides to treat the interior of vents. These are designed to kill microbiological contaminants. The EPA warns chemical biocides have yet to be fully researched, and homeowners should be fully informed before deciding to permit the use of biocides or chemical treatments in air ducts. Homeowners should never attempt to clean air ducts themselves. If the decision is made to have the cleaning done, it should only be on an as-needed basis and completed by a reputable cleaning service.

Pros One of the more obvious advantages of air duct cleaning is improved health and hygiene in the home. Those prone to allergies may find that routine cleaning helps ameliorate the problems of sneezing and watery eyes. Duct cleaning can remove allergens and dust. The Environmental Protection Agency says air duct cleaning is handy if there is a noticeable accumulation of dust and debris in ducts or if particles are actually released into the home from supply registers. If ducts are infested with rodents or insects, cleaning will make indoor air much safer. Mold is another factor to consider when determining if ducts need to be cleaned. Mold spores floating in the air can lead to illness. Professional cleaning may be the


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13 • Spring Home • March 2014

Pros and cons to air duct cleaning

Spring Home • March 2014 • 14

Ideas on restoring secondhand furniture


en and women furnish their homes and apartments in various ways. For some, home furnishings are an extension of their personalities, while others prioritize budget over style when furnishing their domiciles. Secondhand furniture has long been used to furnish homes and apartments. While young people working with tight budgets and living in their first apartments might be the most likely to rely on secondhand furniture, such items are not exclusive to recent college graduates and young professionals. Homeowners with a love of antiques or those who simply can’t resist thrift store bargains also are likely to lean on secondhand furniture. Used furnishings range from expensive high-end antiques to bargain bin chairs and couches found in thrift stores or purchased online. Pricey antiques often come fully restored, but that still leaves legions of shoppers who need to bring their secondhand furnishings back to life. The following are a few ways to do just that. Embrace your inner Picasso. A fresh coat of paint can go a long way toward stylizing secondhand furniture. Items that have been through a lot before making it to your home may benefit from some sanding before receiving a fresh coat of paint. Once items have been sanded, smoothed and cleaned, apply some primer before dusting off your paintbrush. Primer makes it easier for the fresh coat of paint to bond to the furniture,

making it less likely that the new coat will chip or crack in the months to come. After applying primer, the painting can commence. Two to three coats should be sufficient to give the item a fresh new look. Allow the item to dry for several hours before showing it off and putting it to good use. Upgrade old upholstery. Old chairs and couches tend to have ample wear and tear. But such items are still useful as long as their bones are still sturdy,

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even if cushions have flattened out and fabric is suffering from tears or stains. Reupholstering old furniture can turn inexpensive but worn down older items into seemingly brand new pieces at a fraction of the cost of new furniture. According to Better Homes and Gardens magazine, the following supplies are necessary to successfully reupholster furniture: • needle-nose pliers • camera or notepaper and pencil • marking pen • scissors • staple gun and staples, 3⁄8- or 5⁄16-inch • 1⁄2-inch batting • upholstery fabric (chairs typically require 5 yards) • straight pins • 5⁄32-inch welt cord • sewing machine • upholstery-weight thread • tack strips • fabric glue, optional • upholstery tacks or nailhead rim, optional • black breathable fabric for the underside of furniture Reupholstering furniture can be a tedious process, and one novices might want to leave to the professionals. The cost of reupholstering secondhand furniture bought at a garage sale, thrift store or private seller online is likely still less expensive than buying a new piece, so you might still make out in the long run. If reupholstering proves too expensive but the furniture still has ample and

comfortable cushioning, consider employing a slip cover to hide stained or torn upholstery. Slip covers are typically inexpensive, and they can be purchased in various colors. Wash away years of wear and tear. Restoring secondhand furniture can sometimes be as easy as washing away years of wear and tear. Old chests of drawers, dressers or armoires might just need a good scrubbing to look as good as new. Before cleaning older furniture, remove the old wax with a stripper bought at a hardware store. Old coats of wax can prevent cleaners from reaching the surface of the furniture, so they must be removed for cleaning products to be effective. When cleaning old furniture, it’s a good idea to solicit advice from antique dealers, who can help you avoid damaging the piece even further. A small amount of dishwashing liquid mixed with warm water can be used to gently clean old wax off of furniture. When applying such a mixture, be careful to avoid soaking the item or letting the mixture pool on its surface. Work slowly, gradually cleaning small areas one by one and wiping them down with a damp cloth to ensure wax and other residue has vanished completely. Once the item has been thoroughly cleaned and been given ample time to dry, you can apply a new coat of wax. Older furniture can be both practical and chic, and there are many ways to bring such items back to life without breaking the bank.

Passive and active venting systems for attics help keep homes comfortable and energy-efficient all year long.


omeowners are often interested in projects to improve the aesthetic appeal of their homes, particularly those that may increase the curb appeal of their properties. But some projects, including improving attic ventilation, can benefit a home even when they aren’t especially eye-catching. Attic venting preserves the life of a roof while improving the energy efficiency of a home. Although it may seem counterproductive to let air into the attic when you are sealing drafts elsewhere in the home, there is rhyme and reason to venting an attic throughout the year. What is attic ventilation? Attic ventilation is a system of air intake and exhaust that creates a flow of air through the attic. In the summertime, air flowing through the attic will cool temperatures within the attic, preventing damage to the underside of roofing shingles and preventing ambient heat from traveling inside of a home. In the winter, air flow helps to keep the attic cool and dry. This prevents moisture that can lead to mold and rot issues from building up inside of the attic. Attic ventilation also prevents warm indoor temperatures and rising heat from warming up roofs during the winter, creating the freeze-thaw pattern that results in ice dams. Improving attic air flow Many attics already contain passive

ventilation in the form of vents or ventilation strips built into the edge of the roof. Other vents may appear in gables or eaves. Some homeowners prefer the addition of an attic fan to work in concert with existing venting. The spring season is an ideal time to have an attic fan installed because the weather is temperate, making it easier to work up in the attic. According to Natural Light Energy Systems, attic temperatures can exceed 160 F on hot summer days. Proper attic ventilation can reduce those temperatures by up to 40 F, prolonging the life of the roof. Attic ventilation also reduces the load on heating and cooling systems. No matter how much insulation is in an attic, some transfer of attic air will occur between the home and the attic, and that transfer makes heating and air conditioning systems run longer and harder to compensate. Homeowners who notice their HVAC systems running endlessly to keep the home comfortable can benefit from improved attic ventilation, as can those homeowners whose attics feature moisture damage in the way of rusty nails or moldy wood framing. An attic fan is often an effective remedy to these issues. Attic fan 101 The installation of an attic fan is best left to a professional, as it requires running wiring to the fan and it may necessitate cutting into the roof for venting. Many fans work with a thermostat and will turn on when the air temperature in the attic reaches a certain temperature. The fan will circulate the air, helping to keep the attic cooler and dryer. Also, the fan can help expel fumes from cooking or appliances from the home. Canada Go Green notes that attic fans can reduce energy bills considerably by making HVAC systems work more efficiently. Keeping attics cool and dry may also reduce how frequently HVAC systems need to be turned on or at which temperatures thermostats in the home are set. Improving attic ventilation may not add much to a home’s curb appeal, but such a project can save homeowners money and provide year-round benefits.

15 • Spring Home • March 2014

Improving attic ventilation benefits the roof and more

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Spring Home • March 2014 • 16

Driveway sealants preserve the look of the driveway and can make the surface durable and impervious to stains.

Sealing a driveway can extend its life


nstalling an asphalt or a concrete driveway can be an expensive undertaking. To preserve the fresh, new look of the driveway, have the driveway sealed and then routinely seal it to keep it looking pristine. A good sealant can keep a driveway looking new longer and also can rejuvenate the appearance of an older driveway. Sealant can be compared to car wax. It provides an outer coating that will repel stains, stop UV rays from fading the driveway and help to protect against cracks and driveway degradation. Over time, asphalt driveways will begin to fade in color and the stone and rocks used in the asphalt mix will appear more prominent. By sealing the driveway, a homeowner can maintain its original dark color. Another reason to seal a driveway is to reduce the chance of freeze-thaw damage. This type of damage results when water penetrates the surface

of the driveway and then expands as it freezes. The expansion can cause cracks and fissures, as well as compromise the soil underneath the driveway, making it sink or become unstable. Sealed driveways help to keep water beading on the surface of the driveway, rather than being absorbed into the driveway material. When water no longer beads on the driveway, this is often an indicator that the driveway needs to be resealed. There are some guidelines to follow when sealing driveways. When starting, sealant should not be applied immediately after the driveway is poured. Concrete needs to cure for a period of up to one month before sealant should be applied. Fresh asphalt contains oils that eventually evaporate. The oils are what makes fresh asphalt pliable and soft. Once these oils evaporate, the asphalt gets harder and more durable. Sealers can prevent evaporation and may make the asphalt

permanently soft. After the initial base application of sealant, the driveway should only be sealed every two to three years, depending on its condition. Sealants are just coatings, and adding too many layers can cause the sealant coatings to crack and peel away. Sealing a driveway is a laborintensive process that’s best left to professionals. These professionals have the knowledge of technique and the right tools to get an even, thin coating of sealant. Remember, a driveway should not be walked or driven on for a minimum of 24 hours after sealant is applied. Weather conditions also can influence the amount of time it takes for the driveway to cure. Having the driveway sealed prolongs its durability and appearance. It also can make the driveway less prone to staining and cracking, making this project a sound investment.


is the season for making changes in and around the home. The arrival of warmer weather renews homeowners’ vigor for various home improvement projects, and many have grand plans for interior and exterior renovations as they prep their living spaces for comfort, beauty and entertaining opportunities. While there are many worthy projects to pursue, adding outdoor lighting to a home can help increase its value and make the home safer and more attractive in the evening hours. According to the American Lighting Association, with a few updates to outside lighting, families can make even better use of their homes at night. Adding outdoor lighting is easier and less expensive than many homeowners may know, allowing them to transform an existing patio, deck or pool area into an enjoyable nighttime retreat. Pool parties, dinners on the patio or barbecues with neighbors become even more memorable when outdoor lighting is added or improved. But homeowners who

want to install or upgrade their outdoor lighting should consider the following tips, courtesy of ALA. Improve navigation. Lighting is typically layered into a room or outdoor space in three ways: overhead, task and ambient. Even outdoors, where there are no typical boundaries and borders, those three layers are necessary. Outdoor overhead lighting should improve visibility on steps, paths and walking surfaces, especially where there’s a bend or an intersection. Task lighting can be used around cooking or gardening areas. Ambient light will cast a comforting glow around any outdoor space. Enhance security. To improve visibility and security, combine a motion detector with a sconce to illuminate dark corners or entryways. Be sure to aim lights away from the door to improve visibility. Lanterns on either side of the door can give a home a warm, welcoming appearance and improve the safety of entryways.

Create outdoor rooms. Outdoor lighting at the borders of a space is a great way to create barriers, both vertically and horizontally. Lights in a tree create something akin to a chandelier hung in the middle of the sky, and even accent lights in the general area of the edge of a patio, deck or porch will shine across the space and provide enough of a comfort level for people to understand where things are. Reduce glare. Outdoor lighting that casts a glare can be blinding, as can light that’s too bright. Lighting along paths should be cast downward, with fixtures that are hooded. A variety of lighting options will create layers, allowing you to add or subtract as necessary. Exterior-safe dimmers also can provide flexible control over the level of light, as can movable fixtures added to a patio or porch. Add decorative elements. Just as arbors, pergolas, patios and other outdoor elements help to enhance the style of an outdoor space, so, too, can lighting

contribute to a well-designed landscape. Lighting should play up decorative features of a yard and add the ambience that homeowners desire. Step lights make passage safe while also highlighting molding or trim details. An outdoor chandelier can make for a wonderful accent during dinnertime on the deck or under a pergola. Patio lights provide atmosphere as well as illumination for cooking outside. Enhance views from inside. Outdoor lighting can make the view from inside pleasant and enjoyable. Use a variety of lights, including spotlights on trees, lights dotted along pathways and accent lights on unique landscape features, to create an idyllic landscape visible from inside the home. Outdoor lighting enhances functionality of yards and landscapes while making such areas safer for homeowners and their guests once the sun has gone down.

9 ways to improve curb appeal

Homeowners who want their homes to make strong first impressions must prioritize curb appeal. Homes with strong curb appeal sell well and can impart a welcoming feel to all visitors. Improving curb appeal need not be expensive, and the following are a handful of ways to improve the appearance of your home. 1. Install a bold-looking door in a vibrant color or one with a custom design. This helps the home stand out from other properties in the neighborhood. 2. Edge the driveway to create a distinct border between the driveway and the lawn or other landscaping features. This helps homes appear neat and well kept.

3. Use outdoor lighting to make a home more inviting. Outdoor lighting also makes properties safer to traverse at night. 4. Clean a home’s exterior to remove mildew or discolorations from the siding, driveway, patio, and other outdoor elements. 5. Improve landscapes with fresh plants and seasonal color. Homeowners without the time to plant can consider container gardens, which don’t take much time to assemble but still add appeal to a home’s exterior. 6. Prune planting beds and add new mulch to restore color. 7. Add shutters and accent trim to a home’s exterior to improve on the beauty of the house. 8. Install new fencing or give a fresh coat of paint or stain to an existing fence. 9. Replace concrete paths with tile or stone walkways to make entryways more impressive and inviting.

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17 • Spring Home • March 2014

Lighting sets the stage for outdoor fun

Spring Home • March 2014 • 18

Recognize termite damage


ome ownership can be an unending series of adventures, especially for those homeowners who love good home improvement projects. Some projects are fun and improve the value of a home instantly, while others are undertaken to address a potentially serious issue. Discovering that termites are taking up residence where you live can be disconcerting, but termites are a very common occurrence. Understanding termites and recognizing the signs of termite damage early on can help homeowners reduce the havoc that such critters can wreak on their homes. Termites are social insects that live together in colonies. These colonies eat nonstop, dining on wood and other cellulose plant matter. They also eat materials made from plants, like fabric and paper. According to the National Pest Management Association, termites cause more than $5 billion in property damage a year. Studies show that queen termites can live up to decades under ideal climate conditions while workers and soldiers live approximately one to two years. While there are many varieties of termites, all are silent destroyers capable of chewing undetected through housing structures. To eradicate termites, homeowners must first identify the insects and then contact a termite management specialist to address the pest problem.

accumulation of soil or dirt at the base of wood structures or the foundation of a home. There also may be fissures or cracks near wood surfaces. Sometimes “frass” or termite droppings can be seen. They appear as rough, granulated sawdust. Covered mud tubes, or channels of mud leading from the soil up the foundation of a home, are indicative of the presence of termites. Even if termites are no longer present in these tubes, that does not mean the termites have moved on. They simply may have chosen a new path to your home.

Spotting termites Termites may not always be visible. Subterranean termite homes are usually formed in soil, where the termites build elaborate tunnel systems that channel through to above-ground food sources. Drywood and dampwood termites may live within the wood they consume and be undetectable until the wood collapses or rots away. Homeowners often realize they have a termite problem when they witness swarming termites. At this point there already may be a mature colony at work damaging a home. Swarming, winged termites form in a mature, established colony. Winged termites emerge and fly off looking for mates. Afterward they will locate a new breeding site and form another colony, potentially spreading infestations through multiple locations. Winged termites are attracted to light and can be seen by windows and doors in spring. Other signs of termites include

Treating termites It is very difficult for homeowners to get rid of termites by themselves. Very often they require the work of professionals. A termite exterminator will conduct a visual inspection of a home and property and may do extensive testing involving expensive acoustic or infrared equipment to probe the soil beneath the house. Depending on the species of termite, the exterminator will suggest various treatments. These may include the application of pesticides and making areas around the home less hospitable to termites. Severely damaged wood may need to be removed and replaced. Termites are problematic in many areas of the world. These insects often stay hidden and do serious damage that can cost homeowners a fortune. Treating termites promptly is essential.

Keeping termites away Once termites have been identified, it is time to eliminate them. This means getting rid of water and food sources that are close to a home. • Repair leaky faucets and other water drips in and around the house. • Keep gutters and downspouts clean. • Seal entry points around water and utility lines or pipes. • Divert water away from the foundation. • Keep lumber, firewood or paper away from the foundation of the home. • Clear away stumps and tree debris. • Prevent untreated wood from contacting the soil.


pring cleaning plans are on the minds of many once the weather warms up. Many homeowners feel a sense of renewal in the spring, when the desire to clean house and get organized becomes a priority. Garages are often targets for homeowners hoping to target clutter. Once a space reserved for cars, garages are no longer strictly for vehicles, used

instead to store items that simply do not fit inside the home or a backyard shed. Organizing the garage is typically a weekend or several-day project. Here’s how to turn a garage from a cluttered mess into a space suited for storing items of all shapes and sizes. Enlist a helper. Organizing a garage is a significant undertaking that is best tackled with two or more people. Enlist a helper to make the project less intimidating. Decide what is important to keep. Start the organization process by clearing out the garage and taking inventory of what you have. Items that have not been used for several years can likely be tossed. Make a pile of what will be kept and then put the rest at the curb or donate useful items to charity. Give thought to where you want to store particular items. Tools and items that are used more often should be stored within reach or where easily visible, while items that are not used as

frequently can be stored higher up. Think about how you operate in the garage. Recycling bins can be stored closer to the door into the home, while bicycles and skates can be nearer to the garage door for easy access. Group like items together. Categorize items that will be kept. Garden tools, camping gear, sporting equipment, and automotive supplies should be categorized and stored in their own areas of the garage, determining if certain items can be stored inside the home to free up garage space. Grouping items together will make them easier to locate in the garage. Move boxed items into clear storage containers. It’s much easier to see what you have when it is stored in clear containers. Some containers are interlocking or stackable, making it much more convenient to store items vertically and free up more floor space. Invest in vertical storage systems. Moving items from the floor and putting

them on shelving or behind cabinets can make the garage more organized. Hooks and bins also can be used. Employ a peg board full of hooks for oft-used tools or other items you need at the ready. Leave space for hobby and work areas. Garages are where many improvement projects begin or where hobbies, such as woodworking or crafting, take place. Leave space for these tasks and hobbies. Give the space a fresh coat of paint. Some garages are dingy and dark. Bright paint on the walls and floor can open up the space and, when combined with more lighting, can make it lighter and brighter. Garage organization is a common spring cleaning project. But it shouldn’t be reserved for this season alone. Periodic checks of the garage and straightening up can keep a garage clean and organized throughout the entire year and make yearly spring cleaning much more manageable.

19 • Spring Home • March 2014

Make a plan for garage organization

Spring Home • March 2014 • 20

Equip your home with a sump pump and backup battery


Homeowners who live in areas prone to flooding can protect their homes with sump pumps.

n 2012, hundreds of miles of coastline along the northeastern United States were battered and decimated due to Hurricane Sandy. More than a year later, many homeowners were still dealing with the consequences of the devastating storm. Hurricane Sandy illustrated just how destructive water can be. Each year, storms across North America have the potential to flood homes or cause water to enter the basement or first floor. According to the National Flood Insurance Program, a mere six inches of water in a 2,000 square foot home can cause around $40,000 in damage. Homeowners looking to avoid such damages can rely on sump pumps and backup emergency systems to keep sublevels dry and safe. Sump pumps are frequently used in homes at risk of flooding or in homes where the water table is above the foundation of the

home. Sump pumps remove water that has accumulated in a water collecting sump basin built into the foundation of the home. Water may enter through perimeter drains (French drains) built into the basement or directly through the sump basin itself. The pump will send the water away from the house through a series of pipes that could drain into a dry well, into a municipal storm drain or at the curb. Many sump pumps are hard-wired into a home’s electrical system and will automatically turn on when the water level in the sump basin has risen enough to trigger the pump. A flotation device built into the pump will rise enough to turn on the pump, which will then dispel the water until the device returns to its regular level. When operating correctly, sump pumps are effective at removing water and keeping basements and crawl spaces dry. However, in the event of a power outage, which is common when strong winds

accompany flooding rains, a sump pump is rendered useless unless there is a backup battery attached to the sump pump. Having a battery hooked up to a sump pump, or a backup sump pump that is battery-powered, can give homeowners peace of mind in any storm. A backup plan ensures the pump will still be able to remove water for a certain period of time until electricity is restored to the home. Another option is to make sure the sump pump is connected to a power generator should the main power supply go out. As long as the generator is running, the sump pump will expel the water. Water damage to a home can cost thousands of dollars in repairs, particularly when it is not covered by standard home insurance policies. Sump pumps can help keep homes dry and safe.


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Advertised introductory *Annual Percentage Rate (APR) of 1.75% is the lowest available and is fixed for the first 12 months. Offer based on individuals credit worthiness and subject to loan to value (LTV) of 80%. After initial 12 months billing cycles, rate automatically reverts to a variable rate of interest as low as Prime minus 0.50% as published in the Wall Street Journal 30 days before the date of any rate adjustment. Automatic payment required to receive prime minus 0.50% rate. As of 1/1/2014 Prime Rate was 3.25%. Offer limited to 1-4 family owner-occupied primary residence properties only. Property insurance (and flood insurance, if applicable) required. Offer and rate is subject to change at any time without notice. Other terms and restrictions may apply. APR will not exceed 18% with a minimum rate of 2.75%. Minimum payment is 1.5% of unpaid balance or $25; whichever is greater. If Real Estate Line of Credit is paid in full and closed within twelve (12) months from the opening date; a prepayment penalty may apply. RI: up to but not to exceed 2% of the balance due at time of payoff; MA; remaining balance of first year’s interest of amount equal to last 3 months’ interest; whichever is less. Existing GCU Real Estate Lines of Equity lines/loans are not eligible for refinance with this promotion. Other rates and terms are available. Inquire for full details.

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ompleting home improvement projects on your own can be both rewarding and financially responsible. A growing number of homeowners are dabbling in do-ityourself projects, recognizing both the personal and financial rewards of such undertakings. As more and more homeowners perform their own renovations and other improvement projects, many are outfitting their homes with state-of-the-art workshops and transforming garages into a do-ityourselfer’s paradise. Safety is vital in any workshop. During a typical home renovation, homeowners will use all sorts of dangerous tools and chemicals, and even the simplest mishap can result in a serious injury. Following safety rules can reduce the risk of injury. Know your tools Before novice do-it-yourselfers begin working with power tools, they should familiarize themselves with their owners’ manuals and the operating instructions. Some home-improvement retailers offer classes in various home renovation projects and may be able to teach tool usage. Do-it-yourselfers should consult professionals with regard to proper tool use and safety. Do not use tools for purposes other than what the tool was intended to do. If machine guards are provided, they should be used and never removed.

21 • Spring Home • March 2014

Practice garage and workshop smarts Wear safety gear Eye, ear and breathing protection are key in any workshop environment. Dust and chemical gases may be present when working with certain products, and debris can be kicked up and enter the eyes, causing irritation or even blindness. Loud power tools can damage sensitive ears, especially when used in a contained room. Always wear goggles, soundmuffling earphones and dust masks when working. Assess physical well-being Do-it-yourselfers should never work with machinery if they are feeling sick or fatigued or while taking medication that can affect concentration or alertness. All it takes is a moment of distraction to cause an injury. Never surprise anyone who is working with power tools and keep unnecessary people out of the workshop, where they might chat and distract others from the tasks at hand. Factor in ergonomics Failure to work in comfortable conditions can result in repetition injuries or muscle strain. Make the workshop as comfortable as possible. Ensure the work table is at the right height. Use a rubber mat on the floor to reduce standing fatigue. Have a stool or chair available for taking breaks. Keep a clean shop Power cords strewn around the workshop

present a tripping hazard. They also make it possible to drag sharp or heavy tools off of tables and workbenches if the cords are pulled or tripped over. A neat workshop is a safer workshop. Pay attention to where tools are kept and keep cords manageable. Dress appropriately Loose clothing and hair can become tangled or lodged in equipment. Do not wear jewelry. Dress comfortably but appropriately for the workshop, being sure to wear sturdy shoes.


Lock it up Children and pets are curious and may wander into a workshop to explore. They can become seriously ill or injured by the bevy of chemicals and tools used for common projects. Some items are flammable and sharp and should always be out of reach. Locking cabinets and drawers can keep tools inaccessible. Also warn youngsters against entering the workshop unattended. As more people engage in do-it-yourself projects, homeowners should reacquaint themselves with safety procedures.

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Spring Home • March 2014 • 22

Prioritize safety when power washing P

atios, decks and outdoor entertaining areas often need some TLC. Homeowners looking forward to enjoying the warm air again often start their annual chore of readying such areas for the entertaining season in the spring, and cleaning outdoor furniture and entertaining areas is a big part of that process. Very often individuals turn to pressure washing machines to clean such areas; while pressure and power washers are effective, they also can be dangerous if homeowners don’t prioritize safety when operating these machines. Pressure washing machines come in many varieties, and not all are created equal. Smaller, electricpowered systems may be effective for cars and boats but ineffective at cleaning grime on a house or driveway. Pressure washers also may have hot or cold water supplies. Hot water can help cleaning detergents emulsify dirt faster and more effectively than cold water. The cleaning capacity of these machines is measured in cleaning units — or the water pressure multiplied by the flow rate. The higher the cleaning units, the greater the cleaning power of the device. But more powerful tools also carry a greater safety risk, highlighting the importance users must place on safety when operating such machines. The following are a few safety tips homeowners can employ to ensure their next power washing project goes off without a hitch. Clear away furniture and any obstacles from the area where you will be cleaning. You want the area to be free of tripping hazards or items that can be damaged by the spray. Keep children and pets away from the area while the cleaning is taking place. Pressure washers are powerful, and highly pressurized water spray can cause injuries. Slips and falls on wet surfaces may occur, and high-pressure injection can happen when water and chemicals penetrate the skin and cause tissue damage. Eye and ear protection should be worn at all times when working with a pressure washer. Many pressure washers work better when used in conjunction with some type of cleaning solution. A combination of bleach and water will help loosen dirt and will require less pressure from the washer.

Home improvement

GLOSSARY Understanding the terminology used in the home improvement and construction industries can help homeowners be better informed and involved in projects around their homes. The following are some common industry terms. Aggregate: Crushed rock used in many asphalt applications.

Pressure washers have various levels of power. Some may be effective for washing cars, while stronger settings are often most effective at cleaning home siding.

As you grow accustomed to the power of the washer, it is best to adjust the nozzle to a wide angle fan and the lowest pressure setting to see how effectively it cleans a given surface. Increase pressure accordingly as the project progresses. Making the water stream too narrow could cause damage. It takes time to learn the subtleties of the machine, so users should allow themselves ample time to grow comfortable with the machine.


The amount of current a wire can safely carry.


A fibrous material that was once used widely in building materials but is linked to cancers of the lung and lung cavity.


Soil or gravel used to fill in against a foundation.


Horizontal framing member designed to carry a load from joists or a roof.

Butt joint: 

Lumber pieces joined at the ends.

Casement window: A window with hinges on one of the vertical sides making it swing open like a door. Caulking: 

Flexible material used to seal a gap between two surfaces.


Rules set forth by a government institution to determine fair and safe trade practices.


A process that brings paint or masonry materials to their final, durable form.


A wall finish made from gypsum plaster encased in a thin cardboard.


The anticipated cost of materials and labor for a project.

Keep the pressure wand 10 to 12 inches away from the surface that needs cleaning. Make small passes and check the cleaned area, adjusting the pressure and stream accordingly.

Fixed price contract: A contract with a set price for the work. Flashing:

Sheet metal or roll roofing pieces fit to the joint of any roof intersection or projection.

Begin in the farthest corner of a deck, driveway or patio and the highest spot of a home. Use slow, even sweeps with the pressure wand, being careful to maintain an equal distance from the tip to the work surface. This helps to ensure even cleaning and reduces the chances of streaks and overlapping of the pressure spray.


Widened ground base of a foundation to support foundations or piers.


The structural wooden elements of most homes.


A ground fault current interrupter, which is an electrical device used to prevent injury from contact with electrical appliances.


The exposed upright part on each side of a window frame or door frame.


A tool to check for level or plumb surfaces.


A legal authorization to begin a work project.


The slope of incline on a roof.


Steel rods that are imbedded in concrete for stability.


A tapered piece of wood used to level and secure a structure.


Vertical parts of framing placed 16 or 24 inches apart.


A measure of the electrical requirement of an appliance.

When working on a home, avoid spraying the water at a steep angle under siding or directly into corners. Do not spray under the edges of window or doors. Use caution around dryer and attic vents as well. You may end up soaking the inside of the home or cause water damage unwittingly. Always use caution when operating a pressure washer while on a ladder. The power of the device can easily compromise your balance. If ever you feel uncomfortable using the pressure washer, stop and consider hiring a professional. It is much better to make that investment rather than damage your home or risk injury.



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Spring home march 2014 web  
Spring home march 2014 web