Monthly Archives: December 2013

Patio Remodel(1)

Top 5 Patio Designs

Having an outdoor patio to entertain guests and spend quality time with your family may be high on your list of priorities. If you are considering adding a patio to your outdoor living space, you may be looking for a source of inspiration. The patios of today rival the features, functions, and comfort of indoor living spaces—even outdoors in the fresh air. Below are a few ideas to help you get inspired when building or redesigning the right patio for your backyard.

Basic
Even basic patios can be cool and fun if they are accessorized correctly. For example, if you have a fairly basic concrete patio, you can easily dress it up by building a patio cover or awning, adding decorative potted plants, or lining the concrete with a flowerbed or bushes. You can also invest in luxurious patio furniture in a color pattern or theme that best expresses your personality. The more comfortable and inviting your patio, the more your friends and family will want to enjoy the outdoors.
 
Garden
While most patios have some amount of greenery or outdoor elements nearby, you may choose to create a garden patio where your greenery and flowerbeds are the primary focal point. There are many ways to create a garden patio. For example, you could create walls or a patio cover using a lattice that you thread with ivy or a climbing flower such as wisteria or sweet pea. You can also build your patio into the center of your garden or flowerbed and mix in elements such as a koi pond or a tranquil fountain.

Poolside Patios
If you have a pool or hot tub outside, your patio design may be based around maximizing these outdoor water elements. For example, adjustable lounge chairs that allow you to sunbathe go hand-in-hand with poolside patios. You may also want lower side tables for your poolside patio that allow you to access snacks and beverages while lounging or while floating over to the edge of the pool to grab a bite to eat or a drink. Don’t forget that you and your guests may prefer a break from the sun while lounging poolside, so create some shaded areas with patio umbrellas, awnings, or built-in structures. Also consider adding a pool house for changing in and out of swimwear and storing water accessories. You may even want an outdoor restroom.

Screened Patios
If you want the fresh air and light of the outdoors but want to keep the comforts of the indoors and a greater sense of privacy, consider a screened patio. Screened patios can be built with removable windows or screens so the patio can be enjoyed regardless of the weather. These types of patios can have indoor light fixtures, electrical outlets, and even indoor furniture depending on their exposure to the elements. You can add a door that leads directly to your yard and your outdoor grilling space. Screened patios are the ideal choice if you would like to have a year-round formal patio.
 
Outdoor Living Room
Outdoor Kitchen Designs
One of the fastest-growing trends in outdoor patios is building a patio with all the features and functions of an indoor kitchen. These patios will include a sink, refrigeration, drawers, cupboards, and even a range and oven. If you prefer the idea of grilling outdoors you can build in a brick oven, or you can leave a space between your counters to keep your preferred grill easily accessible. One of the many advantages of having an outdoor kitchen is that it eliminates the need to run to and from the house to keep food items at a safe temperature. It also allows you to prepare food on your outdoor counter space and gives you a built-in serving area. You can even build bar-style seating or use traditional patio furniture for your outdoor kitchen.

Each of the patio ideas above is a general theme you can use for inspiration. However, you can add your own personality and style to your outdoor patio by selecting furniture and accessories in the color, décor, and theme that best suits your tastes. With the growing popularity of creating outdoor living spaces, your options for outdoor furniture and dining wear have gone from cheap and flimsy plastic to comfortable, elegant, and luxurious.

This article was written by Jared Miret.  Jared is a father and home handyman who loves reading up on tips for building a great patio, DIY home projects, and great home improvement ideas.  He gives these things a try, then blogs about his real experience.

Window on Green Wall

DIY Window Shutters

Adding shutters to your windows is a great way to give your home a cute, stylish “cottage” look. It’s also an incredibly easy project that won’t cost you too much money. You can always go out and purchase some pre-made shutters from your favorite home improvement store, but that can get expensive depending on the style you’re looking for. Besides, there’s no guarantee that you will be able to find a style that actually fits with your home and window style. As with most home improvement projects, the best way to make sure that you have the ideal shutters for your home is to build them yourself. It does take a little extra work, but the job is actually easier than you might expect, if you have the right tools and materials for the job. It will also be a great way for you to save some money as well. This simple guide for building your own basic window shutters will help you get started.

Gathering the Right Materials
The obvious first step in building your own shutters is gathering the proper supplies and equipment. Your supplies will depend on the kinds of windows you have, so make sure that you have accurate measurements of all of your windows before you start shopping for materials. Once you have measurements, it’s time to buy the wood that you will be using for your shutters. For a basic board and batten shutter, you will need three long planks of wood measured to fit the height of each of your windows and two smaller pieces of wood measured to their width. The smaller pieces are called the battens, and they will be placed across the longer planks to hold them together. You will also need a box of 1-inch exterior screws, a drill, and some hinges if you want your shutters to be functional. You will need two hinges per shutter. Otherwise, you can screw the shutters directly onto your outer wall if you want them to be for appearances only. Depending on the kind of wood you use, this project can be completed for about $40.

Building the Shutters
The next step will be to make sure you know how the shutters will go together. Line up the three long planks of wood so that they fit together evenly, and use a piece of cardboard as a guide to figure out where the batten will fit. You will want the batten to be at the same place on each shutter, so make sure all of your measurements are exact. You will need two battens per shutter placed close to either end.

Once the three long planks are placed together evenly and you know where your battens are going to go, you will add the actual battens to the shutters. The battens will be held in place with two screws drilled into the wood from the back of the shutters. Drilling from the back will eliminate the need to counter sink and add wood fill. It also gives your shutters a better appearance by keeping the screws almost entirely hidden. Repeat these steps until you have two evenly spaced battens holding your shutters together, and you are done with the actual construction. This shouldn’t take you longer than one afternoon. All that is left is to paint or stain the shutters and install them.

Window

Installing the Shutters
How you want to install your shutters is really up to you. If you want them to be stationary, you can drill them into the outer wall of your house on either side of your windows. As always, make sure you measure closely so that everything is at the proper height and width; you don’t want your shutters and your windows to be miss-matched. If you want your shutters to actually function, you will need the proper hinges. Basic strap hinges will work just fine for this project. Buy two hinges per shutter, and install them on your windows at the height you want.

Whether you want to give your home the appearance of a cute cottage or you want a way to give yourself some extra privacy, a set of cheap homemade shutters is truly the way to go. They are remarkably easy to build, and they are certainly cheaper than most pre-made shutters. Remember this project the next time you want to increase your home’s curb appeal.

This article was written by Jared Miret, father and home handyman.  Jared’s wife was so set on getting window shutters to go with the new Home Exterior Systems for Simonton windows in Houston, that he quickly learned how to make and install them.

House with Trees

Eco-friendly Roofing

If you are building a new home or replacing the roof on your current home, you may be looking for some eco-friendly roofing options. Depending on the type of home or building you own, and the needs you have for your roof, there are a variety of eco-friendly roofing options to choose from. Below are a few ideas to consider.

Recycled Shingles
Repurposing plastic, rubber, or wood is one eco-friendly way to fix your roof. By purchasing shingles made with recycled materials, you can achieve the look and feel of traditional shingles, without using 100 percent new materials. Recycled shingles offer your roof the same protection as traditional shingles, but they are more environmentally friendly.
 
Wooden Shingles
Depending on where you live, you may be able to install wooden shingles to your roof. Before investing in them, check to make sure that they do not violate your city’s codes or ordinances, as some places see them as a greater fire risk than traditional shingles. While wooden shingles are less toxic and take less energy to produce than other types, some people feel that cutting down old cedar to create shingles may not be particularly environmentally friendly.

Zinc Roofing
Zinc roofing has a long life span, is highly durable, 100 percent recyclable, rustproof, and fireproof. Zinc roofs are ideal in snowy areas because the snow will simply slide off the roof, unlike with shingles. Zinc is one of many metals that can be used for roofing, and the average metal roof lasts for up to 50 years. Metal roofs also eliminate the need for installing a roof with toxic chemicals and asphalt.

Rooftop Gardens
One way many homeowners in large cities green their roof is to add a rooftop garden or green roof. Rooftop gardens are eco-friendly in a couple of different ways. They add oxidizing plants, flowers, and foliage to the local environment and have also been shown to provide an additional level of insulation, leading to lower heating and cooling bills. Rooftop gardens can also be used to produce fruits and vegetables or other greenery. If your roof is not flat or easily accessible by foot, you may be able to install green roofs with lightweight foliage or moss.

Home with Solar Pannels
Solar Panels
Roofs are an ideal place to add solar panels, as they have an unobstructed view of the sun. Solar panels will reduce or eliminate your need for traditional electricity altogether, and they will provide a reflective layer of protection on warm and sunny days.

Painted Roofs
An inexpensive way to reduce your energy consumption is to paint your roof white, or install white or light colored shingles to your roof. A lighter colored roof will reflect 70-80 percent of the daily sunlight, compared to darker roofs, which only reflect 10-20 percent of light. This allows you to reduce your cooling bills during the spring and summer seasons.

Create Shade
If you have greened your roof as much as possible, but are still looking for ways to improve your home’s energy efficiency, consider creating additional shade by planting strategically placed trees in your yard. They will need adequate time to grow to a height in which they can provide your home with additional shade, but fully-grown trees can lower your homes temperature by as much as nine degrees. Additionally, you can also plant shrubs and bushes outside windows with direct sunlight. While the shrubs and bushes will help to create shade and block the sun, they will still emit an adequate amount of light.

This article was written by Jared Miret, father and home handyman.  If you like the idea of a zinc roof, he recommends Wade Architectural Systems, a leader in metal solutions

Electric Bill

7 DIY Energy Saving Tips

So much of our monthly income ends up going straight out to our utility companies.  Water, sewer and my least favorites, power and gas.  If you are looking for more ways to change your lifestyle and increase your energy efficiency (and of course, save money) you may be looking for some alterations you can make in your home. There are many do-it-yourself home projects that you can implement quickly and inexpensively to help conserve energy in your home. Below are 7 DIY projects, and changes you can make to your home to help conserve energy.

Upgrade To Energy Efficient Products
As more attention is drawn to reducing energy consumption, many electronics and appliance brands are producing energy efficient models of their products. This could be anything from your dishwasher, washer and dryer, computer, light bulbs, ceiling fans, and windows. While it may not be in your budget to replace all of these items at once, prioritize which ones you can upgrade in a manner that best fits your budget. When purchasing anything that draws energy, remember to inquire about energy efficient alternatives.
Home with Solar Pannels

Utilize Solar Power
Installing solar panels to provide electricity to your home is one way to significantly reduce your energy consumption. Depending on the type and size of solar panels you install, this is a project that can cost up to $15,000 to complete. With such a high price tag, this is not an investment that fits into everyone’s budget. For those looking for ways to use solar power without installing costly solar panels, look for other solar alternatives. This could be anything from solar powered outdoor lights, solar powered phone chargers, or solar powered electronic chargers.

Seal Windows And Doors
Regardless of the time of year or climate you live in, outdoor air can sneak in to even the tiniest of cracks and crevices in your windows and doors. This requires you to use both your heat and air-conditioning with greater frequency, which wastes energy. By investing a few dollars into sealing cracks and crevices, replacing old doorjambs, and installing weather stripping, you can keep your heating and cooling bills where they belong. For particularly drafty windows and doors, you can add curtains, install window insulation kits, or replace them altogether.

Insulate Your Home
There are many areas of your home in which you can add insulation to prevent heat from escaping. This could be anything from your basement, attic, hot water heater, or hot water pipes. For areas of your home that have been previously insulated, get into the habit of checking the insulation for damage or gaps every few years. When buying insulation, be sure to purchase the appropriate kind for the specific area of your home you are insulating. The average hot water pipe insulation for a DIY project costs approximately $20 to complete.

Reduce Vampire Energy Sources
The average American household spends at least $100 a year on vampire energy sources. Vampire energy sources are plugged in electronic devices and appliances that draw energy even when they are not currently turned on. This includes items such as your coffee pot, microwave, television, computer, and electronic chargers. To reduce your vampire energy consumption, get into the habit of unplugging things when they are not in use. For hard-to-reach vampire energy sources, purchase smart energy strips that will reduce or eliminate vampire energy from the items plugged into them.

Program Your Thermostat
By investing in a programmable thermostat, or utilizing the programmable features on your thermostat, you can avoid the yo-yo of turning your heat up and down and up again on a whim. You can also program your thermostat so that you are not excessively heating or cooling your home when it’s unnecessary. For example, when you are at work, you may drop the temperature in your home a few degrees, and then turn it back up when you return home.

Maintain Your Heating And Cooling Sources
Even if you have not upgraded to energy efficient heating and cooling sources, your appliances will consume less energy when they are properly maintained. Change the filters on your HVAC system, get a tune-up on your hot water heater, and clean the coils on your refrigerator on a regular basis.

This article was written by Jared Miret, father and home handyman.  He was tired of wasting money too, and made this changes to save some dough.  He also checked out taraenergy.com for lower rates on the monthly electricity bill.

House and Sky

Prepare Your Roof For Winter

As a homeowner, one of your more costly home repairs is replacing your roof. Whether your roof is fairly new or several years old, you should protect your investment by performing annual roof maintenance and repairs. This will help extend the life of your roof and protect your home from the elements. The winter months are typically the time when your roof is exposed to the most extreme weather, including rain, snow, ice, hail, or high winds. To ensure that your roof is ready for the winter weather, follow the steps below.

Inspection
Inspecting your roof before winter helps to ensure that you do not have any pre-existing damage, or areas of your roof that need attention. When inspecting your roof, look for any of these signs:

Sagging: A sagging area, or areas that appear as if they are sunk in, could be a sign that the plywood framing below is rotten.

Discoloration: Discoloration could mean that you have algae or moss on your roof. If this is not addressed in a timely manner it can lead to costly damage.

Missing Shingles: Your shingles are your roof’s first line of defense against the elements. In order to ensure that your roof is ready for the rain, snow, hail, and wind that may arrive in the winter months, replace all missing shingles. Also look for loose shingles that need additional roofing cement.

Curled Shingles: Curled shingles could be a sign that it is time to replace your roof. If you only have a few curled shingles within a general area, the area may need repair. Also inspect the keyways, or areas between the shingles, to ensure there is not any deterioration.

Check The Flashing: The flashing is the sheet metal that connects the joints of your roof to the side of your home, chimney, or plumbing vent pipes. Check to make sure that there are no holes or gaps in your flashing that can lead to leaks in your roof. If you find an area of the flashing with a hole or gap, then remove the old caulk completely before applying new caulking.

snow house
Clean Your Roof
Any dirt and debris that accumulates on your roof needs to be swept off prior to winter. This will require you to climb up on a ladder with a broom and gently sweep your shingles. If you do not remove debris, it will hold water when it rains and can lead to damage when left sitting on your roof for an extended period of time. When sweeping, be particularly careful if you have asphalt shingles. These shingles are particularly granular; make sure you are not sweeping away the shingles granules.

Clean And Inspect Your Gutters
Your gutters have the important job of guiding the rain, hail, and melted ice and snow from on your roof, to down drain spouts. Clogged gutters or those in need of repair can lead to pooling water and leaks. To prepare your gutters for winter, follow the steps below:

Remove Debris: Start by removing any fall leaves, dirt, and debris that have accumulated in your gutters. If not removed, the debris can restrict the flow of runoff and lead to clogs in your drain spout. You should remove the debris in your gutters at least twice a year, or each spring and fall. If cleaning your gutters is too much work, consider installing gutter guards that will drastically reduce your gutter cleaning time, as they will divert most debris back into your backyard.

Inspect: While you are cleaning your gutters be on the lookout for cracks, holes, or any loose or damaged areas. Gutters that are not in proper condition can lead to runoff in areas other than the drain spouts. Over time, this unplanned runoff can lead to damage and leaks.

Much of the maintenance and repairs above are DIY projects. However, if home maintenance is not your strong skill, or the height required to work on your roof is not a task you are up for, hire a local roof maintenance expert to complete the above maintenance and repairs for you. Even if you perform all of your roof maintenance yourself, it is a good idea to reach out to a professional on occasion to gain further insight as to how you can best maintain your roof.

This article was written by Jared Miret, father and home handyman.  Jared wants everyone to know how to protect their roofs from damage during the harsh winter months.  If you do experience some damage there are many roofing services in Houston that will take good care of your roofing needs.

Bathroom II

How To Fix A Running Toilet

Ever flush your loo then hear that dreaded sound as it doesn’t stop filling?  Maybe you “jiggle the handle” to see if it helps?  Well it is a great idea to learn how your toilet works so that you may fix it yourself. Knowing how to fix your toilet, instead of calling a plumber each time your toilet starts to run saves you time and money. Fixing it right away also saves water. Below are step-by-step instructions to help you learn how to fix a running toilet on your own.

Step 1: Take the time to learn how your toilet works
Fortunately, fixing a running toilet does not have to be a time-consuming or expensive process. It can be an easy fix, provided that you have taken the time to learn how your toilet works. Each type of toilet has a different structure, but the way in which toilets function is essentially the same.

Remove the lid from the tank and identify the flapper that lifts when you push the handle. This flapper allows a tankful of water to fall through the opening at the bottom of the tank and go into the toilet bowl.

Identify the plastic float in your toilet tank. When all goes well, the water in the holding tank drains and this float drops, signaling for water to refill the tank. As the water in the tank fills up, the float rises and signals for the water to stop filling the tank.

Identify the overflow tube that is usually in the middle of the toilet tank. If all goes well, this tube drains excess tank water into the toilet bowl.

Step 2: Ensure that the water in the tank is at the water line
One cause of a continuously running toilet is not having the water in the tank at the water line. If the water is not at the water line, check your water valve. If your water valve is not entirely on, change this. Upon turning it on all the way, the water in your tank should start filling up to the water line.

BathroomStep 3: Make sure the flapper is closed
If the toilet does not stop running long after using it, there is a good chance that the flapper might not have closed all the way. Close the flapper manually to solve this problem. To help ensure that the flapper does not get stuck open again, check that the chain on the flapper is not tangled up or caught on other toilet parts. Prevent further tangles by threading a plastic straw through the flapper chain; also, consider replacing the chain altogether with a loop made out of dental floss.

Step 4: Make sure the float is adjusted
If adjusting the water in the toilet tank to reach the water line and making sure the flapper was closing properly did not work, then check up on the float and make sure it is adjusted properly. First, make sure it is functioning by pulling it up with your hand; if it is working, this should stop the water flow. Make the necessary adjustments to the float so that the tank stops filling a half an inch to an inch below the top of the overflow tube. This ensures that water will not be leaking into the bowl. If the float is close to the valve post, pinch the clip so that you may slide it away and down the wire.

Step 5: Fix and prevent any slow toilet leaks
If you have tried all of these options yet your toilet is still running, then it could have a small leak in it. To check whether your toilet has a leak, put some food coloring in the toilet tank and avoid flushing the toilet for a few hours. After these few hours have passed and the food coloring has transferred to the toilet bowl, you will know whether there is a leak.

If this is the case, make sure that your flapper is not leaky; you may have to replace a decaying rubber part. If the flapper is not breaking down, you may try using steel wool to clean buildup off both the flapper and the rim it sits upon.

Jared Miret, home handyman and husband is happy to share the joy of home improvement with you.  He knows leaky toilets are something that need fixing right away, as he has spent way too much time repairing water damage in Houston because of leaks. 

Modern Kitchen

How To Replace A Kitchen Sink

It is inevitable for homeowners to be faced with the task of picking out a new kitchen sink and faucet, and many homeowners will pay a professional to install them. Did you know that you can save a lot of money by not hiring a professional to install your sink and faucet, but instead learning how to install them yourself? Below is a step-by-step guide for replacing your kitchen sink and faucet. This provides you with a less costly, and more convenient, sink and faucet replacing experience.

Step One: Choose the right sink for your home
Choosing the right sink for your home involves considering different surfaces and knowing the sink dimensions that you need. Finding the sink compatible with your family’s needs and lifestyle ensures that your sink will maintain a polished appearance for as long as possible. This also ensures that the sink you choose is as easy to maintain as possible.

Many homeowners choose porcelains sinks for their aesthetic appeal. Porcelains sinks, however, may not be the best choice for kitchens; often, it is best to use them only in bathrooms. The porcelain surface can easily chip or crack if a heavy pot is dropped on it. Heavy, stainless steel sinks can be a great choice for kitchens. Not only are they easy to clean, but their durability helps them to maintain a beautiful appearance for years to come.  Granite sinks are also a lovely option, they look great with tile countertops, and they can be very affordable in price.

Step Two: Turn off the water supply
Open the cabinet that is directly underneath your sink and then shut off the water using the shutoff valve. Place a large bucket under the trap to catch any excess water that may come out.

Step Three: Loosen the slip nuts on the drain
Loosen the slip nuts on both sides of the drain on the sink you are replacing. Do not forget to also disconnect any connections to dishwashers or garbage disposals.

Step Four: Remove the old sink by cutting through its seals
Begin by unscrewing any mounting clips that may be on the sink. After you have done this, take a utility knife and cut through any caulk or adhesive that is connecting the kitchen sink to the countertop. Make sure to remove the seal lining on the perimeter of the sink. Be careful–you do not want to hurt yourself, or scratch the kitchen counter when using your utility knife. Once all of the clips have been loosened and the seal has been broken, you may lift the sink out of its place and set it somewhere nearby.Kitchen

 

 

 

 

Step Five: Make sure your new sink will fit correctly
Your new sink is likely to have a different depth than your old sink. Because of this, you need to test out, or measure, the new sink to determine whether or not you will need to change the length of the new drain pipe.

Step Six: Set up the basket strainer and faucet
Before installing the sink, turn it over and install both the basket strainer and the faucet using Teflon tape and plumber’s putty. Doing this before installing the sink allows for an upright position and an easier installation.
 
Step Seven: Apply sealant to the new sink
After attaching the lines, use silicone sealant to line the edge of the opening where your sink will go. Place your new sink in this opening.

Step Eight: Tighten the new mounting clips and make plumbing connections
Once you’ve placed your new sink in its proper place, tighten the mounting clips that are on the bottom portion. Make any needed plumbing connections, such as the trap and drainpipe.

Step Nine: Connect the water lines to your new sink
Connect the supply tubes on your new sink to the shutoffs. Make sure that you connect the cold water on the right and the hot water on the left.

Step Ten: Turn on the water supply and check your work
After turning the water supply on, test your faucet to make sure that it is working correctly. Give the silicone sealant a few hours to dry, then clean up any excess using your utility knife.

This article was written by Jared Miret, home handyman.  Jared is happy to share his love of home improvement through blogging.  If you have any problems installing the sink, or need a hand with pluming or leaks, he recommends finding affordable leak detection in Houston.