Improving–and water-proofing–Your Basement

If you’ve been giving some thought to updating or remodeling your basement—particularly as an area that will see more frequent use as, say, a playroom, den or entertainment area, you’ll want to take some precautions before beginning, once in particular:

Check for excessive moisture—and take steps to prevent it.  You can make a simple moisture test to ensure there aren’t hidden water hazards.  Place a piece of cardboard about two feet square on the basement floor with its edges held down by bricks or other heavy objects.  If the cardboard remains dry for several days after a heavy rainfall, you can be confident that you don’t have an underground water hazard.  Make the same test on the walls by taping cardboard to the foundation about two feet above floor level and after a storm, remove it and check to see if the side pressed against the wall has remained dry.

Water proofing of basement walls has been simplified by the development of easy-to-apply paints with a cement base.  They are typically sold in powdered form and can be mixed with water and brushed on.

If your basement walls are bare, cement paint can be applied directly.  But if the wall has previously been painted, then that paint should be scraped off first.  A water-soluble remover will do the job with wall paint.  And muriatic acid, scrubbed on with a brush and rinsed off several times, will remove whitewash.

It is not difficult to apply cement-based paint.  Wet the walls thoroughly with either a brush of spray.  Then apply the waterproofing paint, working from the bottom up.  After the wall has dried thoroughly—in two days or so—add another coat.

 Once the walls are effectively water-proofed, you can begin making more specific plans for transforming your basement into something more appealing.

Tips For Small Repair Jobs Around the House

Here are a handful of tips for simple, easy-to-do maintenance on the exterior of your home:

During the winter months, moisture may seep into outdoor garage or tool shed locks and cause them to freeze, making it difficult to insert a key.  If this happens, heat your key gently a few times by holding it in the flame of a lighter or match.  Then work the key gently back and forth inside the lock, repeating until the lock warms sufficiently to melt the ice inside.

When padlocks are used around the outside of your home, dirt, rust or other corrosion can sometimes form in the mechanism.  To prevent this, place a strip of waterproof tape over the keyhole.  The tape can easily be stripped off and replaced each time a key is inserted.

Following heavy windstorms, you may discover that some of your roof shingles have been lifted or curled back and no longer lie flat.  This leaves the exposed roof susceptible to leaks.  To correct the situation, you can apply a dab of roof cement under each of the curled shingles.  During the next warm spell, shingles will uncurl and will continue to lie flat, even if the cement has dried.

To remove rust or other metallic stains from light colored exterior siding, try washing these with a water solution of oxalic acid.  This is sold in crystalline form at paint and hardware stores.  Dissolve three-quarters of a pound in one gallon of water and sponge over the stain.  Allow to dry for several minutes, and then rub off with a clean cloth.

For rust stains caused by exposed nail heads corroding beneath the surface of the paint, sand off the nail head and spot-prime with a little shellac or a metal primer.  Then countersink the nail head and fill the hole with putty before repainting.


Design Beautiful Windows For Your Home

Though homeowners may not realize it, windows play a pivotal role in the overall décor and atmosphere of their home.

Designed to allow light and air in through solid walls, they are a staple of any architecture.  They serve both practical and aesthetic purposes.  Warmth and safety were the two main reasons why windows were established.  Allowing the sun through the window provided warmth and also provided a means to watch for potential attacks.

Although even standard square windows can act as a design element, many windows are of a unique design and composition.  When establishing the décor for a room, the room layout and the windows are a great place from which to start.  They come in a variety of styles and designs including casement windows, which are cranked to open and close them, gliding windows which slide along a horizontal system, bay windows which feature angles at the wall and ceiling, and sash, round-top and polygon windows, to name a few examples.

Although most come in standard neutral colors like white and beige, more and more windows are featuring a wide spectrum of colors that allow homeowners to design an entire room around the window décor.

The style of the window largely depends on the architectural design of the structure.  A modern home would likely feature contemporary windows with straight lines, few or no panes, and clear glass.  Colonial homes might display many-paned sash windows.  More grandiose dwellings could include windows with stained glass or unique shapes.

When considering what selection works best for you, take a moment to contemplate the primary function of the room in question.  Living room windows are often great décor elements, designed horizontally to allow ample light and to take up plenty of design space on an otherwise empty wall.  In bedrooms, a window will serve a specific area for reading, writing or relaxing.

Ultimately, of course, let your own lifestyle and preference dictate the sort of window that will best complement your household.


Create A Grand Entrance With Your Front Door

The front door sets the tone for the rest of your home. It defines the style within, and should do the same for you.

The more distinctive types of doors include Georgian (plain door with a glass built into it and a classic portico overhead), Victorian (more decorative, often with stained glass panels), Edwardian (simple wooden doors on an undecorated porch) and post World War Two style such as Art Deco, with zigzag lines and brighter colors.

All of these remain popular choices, with a current trend back to the Victorian-style of stained glass windows in doors. There are any number of specialists and designers who can help to restore or recreate the type of door you would like to have fronting your home.

Of course, a front door’s most important function is to provide security. In addition to being sturdy and solid, it should include safety features such as robust locks, security hinges and perhaps a peephole.

If you are replacing a door, you might also want to consider widening or enhancing the entrance opening at the same time. And door “furniture” is an important consideration, as well. This includes door knobs, the mailbox, porch light and address numbers. Victorian homes traditionally have brass “furnishings. More modern doors have brushed aluminum or shiny silver-effect door furniture.

A smart, welcoming door is always worth spending money on. Whether you are restoring your home’s entrance to a previous look or merely giving it a modern day facelift, it will enhance the appearance of your entire property.


8 Tips to Help Organize your Home

home-organizationHere are 8 very useful tips on organizing your home. Taking that first step is the most important part of organizing your home. So now let’s get started on step one. This is critical because you can’t get to where you want to go unless you know what that “where” looks like. How do you want this room to function? How do you want to feel when you’re in it? What do you want to do in this room? What is the real purpose of this room?

Tip #1

Get a pad of paper and pen and walk through each room of your home and write down what you see. It is important not to be overwhelmed. Try doing this systematically.

For example, here is what you might see in your home entry way: shoes, unopened newspapers, mail and circulars that are left at your door, keys, pet toys, coats, sweaters and more. Now write down what can be done to eliminate this clutter.

Tip #2- Get into a Routine

Sounds simple doesn’t it – well take it from me it’s one of the hardest tasks to do. As a teacher, I have always found this has helped me “organize” my day at school for lessons planning, staff meetings and have always found it effective – so, guess what? I now do it for organizing the home. For example, with the children if they have left any toys lying around after playing with them I encourage them to put them away in their “tidy box” or on the shelf.

Tip #3 – Organize Storage

All things in the home must have a “Home” that’s one of the things I say to my kids. Why? Because when something is not seen (in the closet) you can get the False Feeling of it’s all organized. On the shelves divide up sweaters, blouses, the clothes you wear now. As for racks – great for shoes.

Tip #4 – Organize your kitchen

Organize you cabinets for plates, Tupperware, guest tableware – separately if possible, if not, separate shelves. Another great (often overlooked) storage facility is the “Dishwasher” – storage and “purpose” rolled into one!

Tip #5 – Organize the Bathrooms

Ideally, if you have the space and children two bathrooms are great. Make sure that shelves for the toothpaste are just the ‘right’ height for the children in their bathroom. In addition, keep no make up or any potentially dangerous articles in the children’s bathroom within reach!

Tip #6 – The master grocery list

It’s been one the greatest time savers in our home. Basically I have a ‘general list’ that includes the ‘basics’ then ‘specifics’ including favorite items that my children would like in the week and then ‘luxuries’ the items that we would like but don’t need.

Tip #7 – Organize the Garage

Start out by making piles, for example: Yard tools, hand tools etc. Begin by clearing off the work bench if you have one. You might want to purchase some storage containers for the things you have in the house you want to save. Label the containers and stack them in the garage. You can buy hooks to hang rakes, shovels, hoses, bicycles and more. Don’t have room? Try using a company that will store a few extra boxes or those seasonal items you don’t always need access to.

Tip #8 – Have a garage sale

After you go through the house and garage, you will end up with many things you no longer want. The most fun way to get rid of these items is by having a garage sale. You will be amazed at the amount of money you can possibly earn and what you don’t sell you can give away or donate.

How to Stay Safe This Holiday Season

fresh-dryDid you know more home fires occur during the holiday season than any other time of the year? Between the decorations, the food and the crowded homes, many people tend to relax on their fire safety precautions. Now, we’re not saying you can’t have fun this year – we just want you to stay safe!

Holiday Safety Tips – Trees

If you’re going to put up an artificial tree, make sure it’s fire resistant. When you buy your tree, verify it has a UL seal or another mark labeling it as fire resistant.

If you prefer real trees, make sure you choose a fresh tree – these will last longer and pose less of a fire hazard than a dry tree. Consider these points when checking for freshness:

  • Fresh trees are dark green
  • Fresh needles are hard to pull from branches
  • Fresh needles won’t break when bent between your fingers
  • The trunk of a fresh tree will be sticky with sap
  • If the tree is bounced on the ground and a shower of needles rains down, the tree is too dry

Keep the tree away from heat sources, including radiators, fireplaces or other heat sources. Try to keep the room your tree is in well-humidified – a heated room will rapidly dry out your tree, creating a fire hazard.

For best water absorption, cut about two inches off the trunk to expose fresh wood. Trim the branches as necessary and set the tree trunk in the base of a sturdy, water-filled stand with wide spread feet. Keep the stand filled with water while the tree is indoors.

Set up your tree out of the way of traffic and don’t block any doorways. If necessary, use thin guy-wires to secure a large tree to walls or the ceiling.

Holiday Safety Tips – “Snow”

  • Remember artificial snow can irritate the lungs if inhaled. Read container labels and follow all instructions.

Holiday Safety Tips – Lights

  • Make sure all lights, indoor or outdoor, have been tested for safety. You can identify these by the label from an independent testing laboratory (UL or another).
  • Before you hang any lights, check the string for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires or loose connections. Discard damaged sets or repair them before using.
  • Securely fasten outdoor lights to trees, walls or other firm supports to protect them from wind.
  • Never use more than three standard-sized sets of lights per extension cord.
  • Turn off lights on trees and other decorations before you leave the house or go to bed. Unattended lights could short and start a fire.
  • Never use electric lights on a metallic tree – faulty lights can cause the tree to become charged with electricity, and any person who touches the tree can be electrocuted!

Holiday Safety Tips – Candles

  • Never use real, lit candles on a tree or near other evergreens.
  • Always use nonflammable candle holders.
  • Keep lit candles away from flammable decorations and wrapping paper.
  • Set candles securely in places where they cannot be knocked or blown over.

Holiday Safety Tips – Trimmings

  • Use only non-combustible or flame-resistant materials.
  • In homes with small children, try to avoid breakable ornaments as well as ornaments with small, removable parts that could cause a choking hazard.

Holiday Safety Tips – General

  • Keep matches, lighters and candles out of reach of small children.
  • Avoid smoking near flammable decorations.
  • Have an emergency plan in case a fire breaks out anywhere in your home and make sure you practice it so everyone in your family knows exactly what to do.
  • If necessary, call a residential electrician to inspect your Christmas lights before you put them up.

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5 Investments to Save You Money & Keep You Warm This Winter

efficient-glassWe all know that times are hard, and one of our biggest expenses is likely to be keeping warm this winter. Here are our top 5 tips for making your home as energy efficient as possible.

Energy Efficient Windows

Many people believe that if they have double glazing then they have the most energy efficient windows around. Whilst this may be the case, there are many types of double glazing and the differences in real energy efficiency can be staggering.

Older double glazing tends to be less efficient, as nowadays all windows are tested and certified for efficiency, which wasn’t the case in the early days of double glazing. A-rated windows are the most efficient – however only when correctly installed. If you have older double glazing then it is possible that a significantly more efficient option is now available.

Back in the early days of double glazing, aluminium frames were popular – however these frames themselves were inefficient as aluminium is a good conductor of heat. The lessons here have been learned and it has now become common practice for frames to have an insulated core.

Many suppliers and installers of double glazing would be happy to give you a ‘check up’ to discuss your glazing options and ensure that you have the most efficient setup.


Just as your windows are designed for efficiency, doors have also been revolutionized over recent years. Not only are glazed doors now more efficient thanks to the developments in double glazing, meaning that glazed doors are more efficient – but wooden or composite doors have also been designed with energy efficiency as a priority.

All that has been learned about window casements and using thermal breakers and insulated cores has been applied to the door industry. Many door manufacturers also produce doors to police preferred security specifications.

As with windows, the most efficient doors also need to be installed correctly – to ensure that there is minimal room for draughts


There was a time not too long ago when dens were no-go areas once the days started getting shorter. These days however, with efficient glass, heat reflecting roofs and energy efficient double or triple glazing, conservatories can be all year round resources. If you are finding your conservatory to be uncomfortable – perhaps it is time to get energy efficient.

Draft exclusion

Drafts can quickly make any home uncomfortable. Even with the most efficient windows and doors, you will still be cold if they are not installed correctly or if they have become loose and drafty with use.

Drafts are easily defeated with the aid of foam tape around doors and windows, or brush strips for a more permanent fix. Drafts should be prevented from all exterior doors and windows, as well as doors which lead to often unused or unheated rooms or hallways. Loft hatches should also be draught proofed to ensure that warm air remains in the habitable section of your home and doesn’t all escape through the roof.


Insulation is key to keeping your house warm in winter and cool in summer. Some forms of insulation will have been added during the construction of your home, but extra insulation such as in the loft, or under the floor will help you keep warm this winter.
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Advantages Of Exterior Venetian Blinds

exterior-venetian-blindsPreviously, exterior shades were only placed in commercial buildings like storefronts and showrooms. They were used to enhance security rather than for aesthetic purposes. Today, they have been re-engineered and remodeled so exterior Venetian blinds are also being used in houses.


They are available in a variety of materials including metal, wood, aluminum and fabricated materials. They can be custom made to suit individual personal tastes and preferences. They can also be cut to fit precisely. Those that are to be used commercially such as over showrooms can be made of steel to also offer enhanced security. Steel blinds will usually be fashioned from stamped and pressed steel slats that have a membrane in between. The membrane gives them flexibility so that they can be rolled up.


These and other kinds of Venetian external shades are operable, meaning that they can be open and shut. One of the slats will have a handle that is built in for this. The blinds will have an upper and lower frame that reinforces them when they are shut. The heavy duty commercial ones will often be open and closed mechanically using a remote control.


Commercial ones can also be used as a medium of advertising. They can have a logo or other design imprinted on them. If the design is well done, a logo or other imprint appears seamless. Commercial ones will usually be finished with paint retardant that ensures graffiti cannot adhere on them when they are down. Most of them have a lock that is attached to the one that is on the doorway. The blinds can also be placed over wide doorways and a remote can be used to slide them into the required position.


The most popular kind of exterior Venetian blinds are those with beaded slats. They are made with advanced technology that makes them rust proof and long lasting. They also come in various colors and designs so they offer a lot of aesthetic value.

Guide Rails

There are also those with a cable that have a delicate design and a stack height that is small. The flat slat blinds with guide rails are another option. They have flat slats and guide rails and small stack heights that make it possible to greatly enhance the look of a home.


Obscuring shades are another alternative. These have Z-shaped slats that make them ideal for blacking out a room. The Z-shape facilitates tight slat closure and the plastic sealing at the front of the slats covers every gap so no light gets through.

Asymmetrical ones that can go over most asymmetrical windows that give a harmonized appearance are also available. The double section blind that comes in two sections can be separately adjusted and can go over sash or double windows.There is also the front mounted blind. They offer sun protection especially in the living room while also enhancing privacy. They can be controlled manually or mechanically. there are an array of designs sizes and colors available, there are exterior Venetian blinds for all homes and premises another option to consider is exterior sun control louvers.

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Remodel Your House With These Home Improvement Tips

home-remodelingAs seasons change and we become a bit more defined in our tastes, many homeowners grow weary of living in the same surroundings year after year. Not everybody wants to totally renovate their house, but a lot of them plan to at least take on one or two improvement projects. But before beginning that long desired home improvement project, make sure your home is ready. There are certain things like checking for faucet leaks, mold removal, and others that should be addressed before starting.

When making home improvements, it is important to look at all of your faucets for leakage. A leaking faucet can waste lots of water. If you run into a faucet that is leaking, be sure to repair it as soon as possible. When you wash your clothes, use cold water. You can consider installing low flow showerheads, which will cut down on the amount of water used.

An easy way to save money with home improvements is to not create the necessity to do them in the first place. This can be accomplished by keeping up with the maintenance and repairs on your property. Once a month you should walk around your home and take special notice of what needs repairs and fixing up.

Since your kitchen is the usual gathering place for family and friends, then this is the number one renovation most homeowners first consider, and one that tends to add the most value to your house. Make sure your renovation includes an ample amount of space for cabinets and counters. Also, regardless of the type of no finish your appliances have, be certain they are all in coordination with each other.

One great tip that adds value to your home is to make each room look more expensive by adding one high-end furnishing. Each room should have a focal point. If they don’t, everything gets blurred together and the room lacks any sparkle. Select 1 specialized furnishing to dress up each room. Your friends will think you’ve hired a professional designer.

When remodeling a kitchen, consider changing the sink faucet. A nicer faucet can show a big improvement, and there is not much work required, because you will not need a plumber to complete the job.

Mold Removal

When doing a home improvement project, always prepare for the worst. If you’re remodeling a bathroom or any room in your lower level, plan on and budget for mold removal. It’s better to get rid of the mold now, before you’ve gone to all the expense of a major remodeling project, than to discover it later, when it will be a much more difficult issue to address.

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How To Stay Safe While Remodeling Your Home

Every homeowner at one time or another performs minor or major repair on his/her house.  Even with the simplest, most casual repair-and-replace jobs, safety should be your number one concern.  Here are a handful of things to keep in mind:

Unless you are building a sand castle at your local beach, never wear open-toe shoes.  Constructions boots are big and bulky for a reason:  They protect your feet!  If you don’t own construction boots, a solid pair of hiking boots is a decent substitute.

Always protect your eyes!  Metal or wood fragments, dust, chemicals and solvents can damage an eye much quicker than most people realize.  Safety goggles are cheap to purchase and available at every hardware store.  And select a pair that has a small shield on either side of each lens or buy the type that fits tight to your face and performs a seal against your skin.

Gloves – keep your hands pretty!  Protecting them is easily accomplished with a cheap set of cotton gloves.  If you need to handle small objects, purchase a pair of tight-fitting latex gloves.  If you are working with an open flame, purchase heavy-duty gloves.

Tie up loose hair!  Loose clothing and long hair have killed many construction workers.  It obscures your view and is all too easy to get either caught in power equipment.  Wear snug-fitting but comfortable clothing and keep that hair out of the way.

Let there be light!  Weak lighting is another precursor to accidents. Make sure your work environment is well-lit.  Purchase construction floodlights, if necessary.  They are easy to buy and not expensive.

Masks – Working with chemicals?  Always wear a mask!  They come in a large variety of shapes and sizes.  There are respirator masks, chemical ventilation masks, “splash guard” face shields, gas masks and an entire line created for specific uses.  The average home repair job probably won’t require you to wear one of the heavy-duty variety, but you should definitely invest in a light, throwaway cotton mask.

Ventilation – This is particularly important if you are working with chemicals.  Open nearby windows and doors before you start soldering or using toxic substances.  Take a break every few minutes for some fresh air.  Set up an oscillating fan if necessary.  You can become light-headed or even faint in a matter of minutes when exposed to many chemicals, and prolonged exposure can lead to long-term injuries.

Be careful on ladders, and never work from the top rung.  The majority of accidents occur while working on a simple six-foot ladder.  If a mishap occurs, it happens so fast that there is little time to react.  Any equipment in your hands is very likely to slam into your body or your face on the way down.

These are just the primary incidents that can turn a simple repair job into a major disaster, and the more complex the job, the more circumstance for accidents to occur.  Working on do-it-yourself projects around the house is not a time to cut corners or cost, or to allow your vanity to stand in the way of keeping yourself safe.  The philosophy of “It’ll just take a minute” or “People will think I’m a wimp if I wear a mask or safety glasses” has been the undoing of more than a few do-it-yourselfers.  Stay safe, and live to tackle more repair jobs another day.

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