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Winter Checklist: Things Every Homeowner Should Get Done Right Now

Posted on November 7, 2018 at 10:40 PM Comments comments (36545)

Cut the Power to Your A/C or Waste Energy and Damage Your Compressor

Cut the power to your central air conditioner before the weather turns frigid. Your compressor could be damaged if your A/C accidentally gets turned on in low temperatures. Also, some A/C compressors have a crankcase heater to keep the oil warm. Running this heater in the winter is a waste of money, and the warmth could attract mice. 

Flip off the breaker if the A/C compressor has a dedicated circuit, or rotate the disconnect block upside down into the ‘off’ position. The disconnect block is located in the small panel outside near the compressor. Reenergize the unit 24 hours before startup. That will give the oil time to reach operating temperature.

Protect the Air Conditioner

Even though the condensing unit is built for outdoor elements, it can still be damaged by falling icicles and other debris. You don’t need to invest in a waterproof cover (in fact many manufacturers recommend against it, because it creates a warm space for critters). Just place a sheet of plywood held down by a few bricks on top and your AC should be ready to work again in the spring. Don’t forget! Your winter home maintenance checklist should also include removing and storing any window air conditioner units.

Caulk and Cover Room Air Conditioners

A room air conditioner keeps a section of the house cool. The problem is, it’ll keep the room cool all winter long if it isn’t covered properly. If you have a window unit, the best solution is to remove it so the cold air won’t flow through and around it. If you decide to leave it in or you have a permanently installed wall unit, grab some removable caulk and a window air conditioner cover to keep out the cold.  And if you have a central air conditioner unit, cleaning it annually can also save you energy and money.

Place the cover over the outside of the air conditioner, fitting the sewn-in corner straps over the bottom corners. Wrap the middle straps under and up the sides of the unit, then hook them over the top. Inside the house, apply removable caulk around the air conditioner where it meets the wall or window. If the air conditioner is a built-in unit, permanently seal it with latex caulk.

Make Sure Your Heating System is Ready

Depending on the type of heating system you have, there are a few home maintenance things you should do before the temperatures really start to dip. If you have a high-efficiency system, PVC vent pipes need to be cleared of any obstructions. And those with a boiler system should have their system cleaned every year. Those with gas should have a cleaning about every three years.

Protect All Fruit Trees Against Frost Cracking

In cold areas of the country, fruit trees and other thin-barked tree species are prone to frost cracking, or southwest injury. It happens when sap warms up where sunlight hits the trunk on a warm winter day, only to freeze suddenly when temperatures drop. This causes unsightly trunk cracking that hurt the tree’s ability to take up moisture and nutrients and leaves an opening for insects. Protect the bark with tree wrap and remove the wrap in spring.

Cover Hose Bibs

Insulated covers slow the heat loss from a pipe as it travels through the wall out into the cold. They provide some protection for very little cost. Buy it now on Amazon.

Swap Out the Gas in Small Engines or Replace the Carburetor in the Spring

Standard gas at the pump can gum up a carburetor on a small engine in just a few months. I’ve had to replace a few carburetors for this reason. Now, when I know that it’s the last time I’m going to use a tool for the season, I suck out the gas from the tank with a turkey baster and run the engine dry. Then I add a bit of nonoxygenated gas, which has a longer shelf life but is too expensive to burn all year. I also add a splash of fuel stabilizer and run the engine for a while on the good stuff before storing it. Find out what small engine mechanics say about how stale gas could be killing your small engines.

Shut Off Outdoor Faucets

Turn off outdoor faucets at their shutoff valves. Open the faucet and then open the bleeder cap on the shutoff valve to drain any water out of the pipe. If you don’t drain the pipe, it can still freeze and crack. Leave the bleeder cap open with a bucket underneath to catch any drips. If the dripping continues, your shutoff valve needs to be replaced.

Switch to Winter Wiper Blades

It’s snowing hard and you turn on the wipers. The blade supports get packed with snow and the wiper blade either causes streaks or misses large swaths of your windshield. Regular blades often become clogged with snow and ice. The rubber covering on winter blades prevents that problem. The entire blade is wrapped in a rubber boot that prevents ice and snow from sticking or packing. They make for much better visibility and safer winter driving. Here’s how to replace your wiper blades.

Change the Furnace Filter

Homeowners should change their furnace filters once a month, according to experts. And changing the filter regularly not only helps extend the life of your furnace, it helps with air quality in your home and keeps energy costs down.

Winterize Your Pressure Washer or Ice Might Destroy It

I once owned an electric pressure washer. I refer to it in the past tense because a few years ago, I left it in the garage over the winter without draining the pump. The water froze and expanded, and when I fired up the washer the following spring, water sprayed from every part of the machine except the end of the wand.

I should have disconnected the hoses and sprayed in a pump antifreeze/ lubricant like Pump Saver from Briggs & Stratton. That forces the water out and replaces it with antifreeze and lube. Pump antifreeze/lubrication is available at home centers. And if your air compressor stalls out, here’s how you can fix it yourself by replacing the unloader valve.

Check Insulation

Proper insulation will keep your home warm in the winter, cool in the summer and cut down on energy costs. It’s also a place mice and bats like to call home. And when the weather turns cold, do a check of your insulation—especially in your attic—to ensure there are no unwanted guests.

Clean Attic Venting or Invite Ice Dams

Poor attic ventilation can cause ice dams in the winter months, increase cooling costs, create a home for mold and reduce the life of shingles during the dog days of summer.

Over time, the vents located in your soffits and on some gable-end wall vents get clogged with dust and debris and lose their effectiveness. Clean them with a leaf blower or compressed air. You could use a pressure washer, but stick to a couple quick passes because you don’t want to saturate the attic insulation with water. Clean the vents every few years, unless you live near a lot of trees with floating seeds, which can clog vents in one season. For much more on preventing ice dams, check out this guide.

(To be continued)

Essential Tips for Remodeling Your Bedroom

Posted on September 24, 2018 at 9:50 PM Comments comments (30366)

Essential Tips for Remodeling Your Bedroom



Remodeling your bedroom can be extremely exciting and exhilarating. However, if you’re going the DIY route, it can also be exceedingly stressful. There are countless unknowns in the remodeling process. Will you get it done in your desired timeline? Where are you going to sleep in the meantime? What if you discover an electrical problem? Is it safe to do a DIY remodel? What if you mess something up?



There is a lot that can go wrong while remodeling your bedroom, but there are a lot of easy ways to make it go right. Making sure the process is smooth and successful depends a lot on how much research you do before you begin.



To help you with this remodeling journey, here is some advice to keep in mind:



Paying for It



Before you can even begin your remodel, you need to figure out how you’re going to pay for it. Of course, the best way to pay for a remodel is with cash, but this is not always possible. While we would all like to have that much cash on hand, many of us do not, and must look for other ways to pay for our remodels.



If you need some assistance paying for your project, a personal loan is a good option, and you can get one from a variety of lenders, including your bank or even credit card company. Bedroom remodels typically have a good return on investment (ROI). This means that you are likely to make your money back when you sell your home, especially if you are remodeling the master bedroom.



Because of this promising ROI, personal loans are usually an acceptable option. Personal loans typically have a lower interest rate than credit cards. However, you do need to make sure that you get your loan from a reputable lender. The Better Business Bureau says to first investigate loans from traditional lenders, such as banks and credit unions.



Focus on Storage and Organization



Perhaps nothing is more important in a bedroom than storage. You store a lot of stuff in your bedroom, including clothes, books, shoes, and various odds and ends. When you’re remodeling, remember to consider where you’re going to put all of your stuff.



You might want to consider installing shelves, a shoe rack or even building drawers to go under your bed. Apartment Therapy also recommends taking as much advantage of your closet as you can. Installing shelves and drawers can help you maximize your storage space.



Don’t Underestimate Painting



Painting is one of the easiest ways to transfer a space quickly and with little effort. No matter how many amazing adjustments you make to your space, choosing an inappropriate paint color can throw the whole space off. Because of this, we highly recommend researching possible paint colors extensively.



The paint color you choose should match your current decorations and furnishings while also creating a soothing space. Shades of white, grey, and blue are usually the best options, though others might be suitable, depending on your particular taste and furnishings.



Invest in Nice Wall Art



Wall art can uplift a space and transform your bedroom. While some might be expensive, it can make or break an area. We recommend choosing something you like that also goes with the space. You don’t want to select a painting that doesn’t go with any of your other decorations, but you also don’t want to choose a picture you hate just because it matches.



You should measure accurately before purchasing any paintings, of course. The last thing you want to do is buy a piece of wall art that is too large or small for your bedroom.



Remodeling your bedroom is both exciting and stressful. It is important not to forget the small things, like wall art and paint colors. Also, don’t lose sight of your bedroom’s purpose. Aesthetics are important, but so is function.



Photo Credit: Pexels




Tasks for Your Winter Home Maintenance Checklist

Posted on December 18, 2017 at 12:55 AM Comments comments (14838)

This is the first in a series of tasks that should be performed before winter starts!

It doesn't matter if you shun the cold weather or embrace it, winter is quickly approaching. Here are some tasks to tackle now to make sure your home is ready for the season.

* Make Sure Your Heating System is Ready

Depending on the type of heating system you have, there are a few home maintenance things you should do before the temperatures really start to dip. First, make sure you change the air filter regularly. If you have a high-efficiency system, PVC vent pipes need to be cleared of any obstructions. And those with a boiler system should have their system cleaned every year. Those with gas should have a cleaning about every three years.

* Check the Fireplace and Chimney

If you use your fireplace, have it cleaned by a chimney sweep. You should also check for any debris and cracks in the chimney. And creosote buildup and debris such as leaves and bird nests could become a fire hazard.

Check Batteries in Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, heating is the cause of 27 percent of structure fires during the winter months. So make sure all smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are working in your home. And it's best to have smoke alarms in every room of your home, including hallways. Be sure that home maintenance includes checking the batteries in all alarms once a month is always on your home maintenance checklist.

Prevent Pipes from Freezing

When water freezes, it expands and can cause your pipes to burst. To prevent frozen pipes, insulate pipes near windows, doors and in areas of the home that are unheated. Disconnect your garden hose from the outside faucet. Finally, set the heat to no lower than 55 degrees F.

Test Your Sump Pump

Your sump pump will help you keep your basement dry during the wet season, so make sure it's working properly. Slowly pour a few gallons of water into the pit to make sure the pump turns on. The typical lifespan of a sump pump is 10 years. And make sure it last this long with your home maintenance checklist.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          To be continued....

* Prepare for a Storm

Power outages are common during winter storms, so make sure you're prepared with a survival kit. Your winter home maintenance checklist should include stocking up on bottled water, non-perishable food, flashlights, first-aid supplies, batteries and a smart phone charger.

* Protect Entryways

All that snow, ice and mud can wreak havoc on your entryway floors. Place mats both inside and outside the door, along with boot trays inside the entryway. And make sure your mudroom is ready with a place to dry wet jackets, hats, mittens and gloves.

Check for Air Leaks

Act now on your home maintenance checklist to save on heating costs during the winter months. And check for air leaks around windows and doors, including cracks in caulking or weatherstripping. Also, replace caulk and weatherstripping if necessary.

* Stop Ice Dams from Forming

If your home is prone to icicles and ice dams, take steps now to make sure you have proper insulation and venting. And you can also prevent ice dams by raking the snow off your roof and installing heat cables.

Check the Roof

Give the roof a good look before winter hits. Are there any loose or missing shingles that may result in leaks from melting snow? And use your home maintenance checklist as an excuse to check for any broken seals around vents and the chimney.

To be continued....

9 Tips for a Spring-Clean Home All Winter Lon

Posted on October 15, 2017 at 7:40 PM Comments comments (21227)

Get the dirt out of your home before you hunker down for winter’s worst.

TOPIC: Improve, Organize & Maintain, Cleaning & Decluttering

You know, when you think about it, we should be obsessing over fall cleaning instead of spring cleaning. After all, you’re about to shut yourself inside for months with all the dust and dirt your home has collected during the hot, dusty, open-window days of summer. And who wants to inhale that?! 

The EPA even estimates that indoor air quality can be five times more polluted than outdoor air. So here’s a checklist to help you breathe easy all winter long in your home.


#1 Wash and Disinfect Garbage Cans and Wastebaskets

You’re going to be shut in all winter with these germ havens, so now’s a good time to clean them thoroughly. Take them outside where you can blast the insides with a garden hose, then add disinfectant. 

For an environmentally safe way to sterilize these nasty grime collectors, use undiluted hydrogen peroxide or vinegar mixed 50/50 with water. Caution! Don’t mix hydrogen peroxide with vinegar — the result is harmful peracetic acid. Regular bleach is an effective disinfectant (one part bleach to six parts water), but we much prefer environmentally safe. 

Let the garbage cans sit for an hour, then pour out the contents and scrub the insides with a stiff bristle brush to remove any residue. Rinse and, if possible, let the wastebasket dry in direct sunlight, which helps eliminate bacteria.

#2 Wash and Disinfect Toilet Brush Holders

Take the holder and the brush outside, and spray wash thoroughly with a garden hose. Immerse the holder and brush in a bucket of hot water mixed with one of these solutions:

1 part bleach to 6 parts water

2 to 3 cups of environmentally friendly washing soda crystals

A 50/50 mixture of vinegar and water

Let everything sit in the solution for a couple of hours, then rinse the holder and brush with a hose and place in direct sunlight to dry. 

#3 Turn Over Furniture and Vacuum the Bottoms

You might shift furniture around so you can vacuum the floor, but there’s another side to the story — the underside. 

Tilt upholstered chairs and couches all the way back (much easier with two people) to expose the bottoms. The dustcovers tacked underneath furniture can catch dreck and dust bunnies, so vacuum them off, being careful not to press too hard on the fabric.

#4 Clean the Tops of Doors, Trim, and Artwork

Tables and countertops aren’t the only household items with horizontal surfaces. In fact, just about everything in your house except Rover’s tennis ball has some kind of horizontal surface where dust and dirt will nestle, often unnoticed. You’ll want to clean the top horizontal edges of: 

Interior doors

Trim, including baseboards and chair rails

Artwork and mirrors

Electrical wall plates

Wall-mounted smoke detectors, CO detectors, and thermostats

Upper kitchen cabinets

Light bulbs and light fixtures

Computer monitors

Books on shelves

#5 Vacuum Behind the Fridge

Your fridge needs to be cleaned periodically so that it operates at peak efficiency. Ignore this chore and face another $5 to $10 per month in utility costs. Worst case: a visit from an appliance repair pro who’ll charge $75 to $150 per hour! 

The object is to clean the condenser coils. Here’s how:

If the condenser coils are on the back of the refrigerator, then pull the unit out completely, and unplug it while you work on it. Brush or vacuum the coils to clean them, and clean up any dirt and dust on the floor.

Also, check to make sure your freezer vents are clear. Freezers circulate air to reduce frost, but piling up too much stuff in front of the little grill-like vents inside your freezer blocks their business. 

If the condenser coils are on the bottom of the fridge, then you’ll need to clean them from the front of the unit. 

Take off the bottom faceplate to expose the coils. 

Clean dust using a condenser-cleaning brush ($8) or a long, thin vacuum attachment made for cleaning under refrigerators ($14). 

You should still pull your refrigerator all the way out and vacuum up dirt and dust that accumulates in back of the unit. Unplug it while you work on it.

Put down a piece of cardboard so that grit under the wheels doesn’t scratch your flooring.

#6 Winterize Your Entry

Keep winter’s slush and gunk at bay by making your entryway a dirt guardian.

Get a boot scraper ($19 to $35).

Add a chair or bench for taking off boots, and have a boot rack for wet footwear.

Put down a tough coir outdoor doormat ($30 to $190) for cleaning footwear.

#7 Clean Windows

By some estimates, dirty window glass cuts daylight by 20%. That’s a lot less light coming in at a time of year when you really need it to help chase away winter blues. 

Clean windows inside and out with a homemade non-toxic solution:

1/4 cup white vinegar

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon eco-friendly dish detergent

2 cups water

Wipe clean and polish using microfiber cloths. 

#8 Clean Ceiling Fan Blades

Those big blades on your ceiling fan are great at moving air, but when they’re idle they’re big dust magnets — dust settles on the top surfaces where you can’t see it. 

Out of sight maybe, but not out of mind. Here’s an easy way to clean them: Take an old pillowcase and gently cover a blade. Pull it back slowly to remove the dust. The dust stays inside the pillowcase, instead of all over the floor, the furniture, your hair (ugh!). 

#9 Change Furnace Filters

Yeah, this is a no-brainer, which is why it’s last on this list. But everything else you do could be moot if you’re not changing your filters at least once every 60 days (more if you’re sensitive to allergies). 

Air filters for furnaces are rated by level of efficiency. The higher the rating, the better the filter is at removing dirt, mold spores, and pet dander.

Filters are rated one of two ways (you’ll see the ratings on the packaging); higher numbers mean better efficiency, but there’s a point of diminishing returns — some filters with extremely high ratings also restrict air flow, making your HVAC work so hard that the system heats and cools inefficiently. 

Minimum efficiency rating values (MERV) for filters range from 1 to 16, but 7 to 13 is typical for households (14 and up are used in hospitals).

Microparticle performance rating (MPR) range from 300 to 2,400.

Cheap filters cost about $2, but won’t do you much good. You’re better off paying $12 to $17 for a pleated filter with a 1250 MPR, or $20 to $25 for a filter rated 2,400.

Happy cleaning (and breathing!) this winter.

6 Tasks That Every Smart Homeowner Does in October

Posted on October 6, 2017 at 12:35 AM Comments comments (2735)

Why now’s the perfect time to replace appliances

Improve, Organize & Maintain, Cleaning & Decluttering

The temps are starting to drop; the smell of wood smoke is in the air.

Temps are more chilly than warm. That’s when veteran homeowners know it’s time to do these six things if they want to avoid grief or overspending:

#1 Buy Appliances 

Whisper to them. Do a rain dance. Whatever it takes to get your old appliances to wait until fall to go on the fritz. Manufacturers bring out their latest models during the fall, and store owners offer big sales on appliances they want to move out — like last year’s most popular dishwasher. So September, October, and November are great months to buy.

But October is right in the middle — when there’s still plenty of selection, and retailers might be more willing to haggle.

Refrigerators are the exception because new models don’t come out until spring. 

#2 Switch the Direction of Ceiling Fans 

Most have a switch to allow the ceiling fan blades to rotate either clockwise or counterclockwise — one way pushes air down to create a nice breeze and the other sucks air up, helping to distribute the heat. Think counterclockwise when it’s warm and clockwise when it’s cool. 

#3 Clean Windows

Daylight is about to dwindle so why not get as much of it as you can? Clean off all the bugs, dust, and grime from your windows while the weather is still warm enough to do so. For streak-free windows, combine ¼-cup of white vinegar with ¼ to ½ teaspoon of eco-friendly dish detergent and 2 cups of water.

If window cleaning isn’t a DIY job at your home, schedule a professional window cleaner (who, unlike most of us, is able to do it even when temperatures plummet) before the end of the month. The closer it gets to the holidays, the busier they get. Bright sunshine on winter’s darkest days makes it totally worthwhile. 

#4 Schedule a Heating Unit Checkup

To ensure your family will be able to feel their toes all winter, schedule early in the month for your heating unit to be serviced. As temperatures drop, service companies get busier.

Whether you hire your heating company’s technician or a contractor to do it, they’ll clean soot and corrosion from the combustion chamber, replace filters, and check the whole system for leaks, clogs, or damage. Nothing pairs with a pending blizzard better than the assurance that you’ll be weathering the storm with warm air piping through the vents and cocoa in hand.

#5 Get a Chimney Sweep to Inspect the Fireplace 

It’s time to dust off and sweep the chimney! Best to hire someone who knows wood-burning fireplaces. A professional chimney sweep will ensure your wood-burning fireplace burns more efficiently and will help prevent chimney fires and carbon monoxide poisoning during the winter. So yeah, it’s pretty important.

Tip: If you don’t already have a chimney cap, this is also the time to add one to stop wild outdoor critters from crawling down it — and (yikes!) into your house.

#6 Insulate Exposed Pipes 

If you’ve ever dealt with a burst pipe, you know it’s a sad, wet disaster worth preventing. To avoid the stressful (not to mention, expensive) ordeal, prep your home’s exposed pipes with foam or heat tape — choosing which one will work best with your climate — to keep those pipes toasty. Remember: The most at-risk pipes are often those in unheated areas such as an attics, crawl spaces, and garages, so secure those first.


TOPIC: Improve, Organize & Maintain, Cleaning & Decluttering


Tips for Organizing a Garage

Posted on September 5, 2017 at 7:25 PM Comments comments (10503)

If your car is out on the street because there's no room for it in the garage, it's time to get organized. Here are some tips and tools to make it happen. 

Safety First: Learn the best ways to store that hazardous stuff we all keep in the garage: the chemicals, the paint cans and pesticides.

Chemicals are the No. 1 danger. A lot of people keep pesticides, paints and auto fluids, often in old food containers, which can leak and cause fumes, burns, respiratory problems and fire hazards. Always store such substances in their original containers and out of reach of children, on a high shelf or in a locked cabinet. Chemicals that are poisonous to pets are a huge problem. Road salt and ice-melt mixtures can get on the paws of cats and dogs and cause diarrhea and vomiting. Antifreeze, in particular, is highly dangerous and can be fatal. It has a sweet smell that attracts pets; as little as 1 tablespoon can kill a cat; half a cup can kill a dog. Be sure to wipe up any spills immediately, and keep antifreeze out of reach for children, too.

Gas grills often are stored in the garage, complete with their propane tanks. Propane is highly combustible, and when the propane leaks, it's a gas. You can't see it, but it can hover over the garage floor. One spark of static electricity or the flick of a light switch could cause an explosion. Anything with propane should be stored at least 10 feet away from the house. 

Kids' toys can be a hazard if they're not stored properly. First of all, they should be kept well away from chemical clutter, and they should be up off the floor. Not too high, though; you don't want the kids trying to reach them by standing on wobbly boxes. Use bins for small toys and balls. 

Ladders can be a hazard just leaning up against a wall. That may seem like the logical way to store a ladder, but it can tip over very easily, damaging your car or injuring a loved one. Lean it against the wall horizontally at floor level, or, even better, store it on hooks.

Gardening tools should be stored vertically on secure hooks attached to the walls so they're easy to get to when you need them and they're out of the way when you don't. 

Extension cords used in the garage should always be rated for outdoor use, even though technically you're using it indoors. There is just too much chance of moisture on the floor in a garage, so don't take any chances.

Doors and windows in garages usually don't get the same attention as those in house. However, the door should have a professionally installed deadbolt; the doors and windows should be kept locked.

Smoke detectors also need the same attention you give the ones in the house. Be sure to change the batteries twice a year. 

Unmarked stairs are an accident waiting to happen. Even if you have only one or two steps, put a strip of white or reflective tape on the edges so that people can see them, even in dim light. 

Rugs or tarps under a car to catch leaking fluids may keep the garage floor clean, but it also becomes a fire hazard. Get rid of it, and soak up the spills with cat litter or sawdust. If the stains have already soaked into the floor, try oven cleaner to remove them. Let it soak for about 15 minutes, then give the floor a good scrubbing.

Garage floors need some protection, too. Install matting or rubber tiles. They extend the life of your concrete floors, and they give your garage the look of a showroom.

Clearing the Toy Clutter

It's easy to control clutter if you remember that the four walls of your garage are actually four more floors. With the right shelves and hooks, you can actually quadruple your storage space. 

Sterilite makes a collection of some of the sturdiest plastic storage products available. One of them is a shelving unit that can be assembled in about 30 seconds; each shelf will hold 50 pounds. It only costs about $30.

Storage totes are great because they hold everything and they keep it all dry. If you have kids or pets, though, drill a hole in the tote. If the kids are goofing around and get stuck inside, that hole will be a very good thing.

The cabinets are great for storing anything toxic. You can lock the doors to keep the kids out of it. Also look for modular units that make storing toys easy and fun. 

Rubbermaid has a system called the Fasttrack System. The track mounts horizontally on the wall with screws; the system has a variety of attachments for hanging hoses, tools, even bikes. You can adjust the hooks whenever you need to very easily.

E-Z Ancor's Tornado hooks have a pin in the back that acts as an anchor in drywall. You put the screws in with a Phillips screwdriver; they'll hold 30 pounds. If you hit a stud, the hook will hold 70 pounds.

Going Green in the Garage

Instead of shopping for a bunch of bins and boxes, create storage out of things you already have. It's the green way to store stuff. 

Old jars get a new purpose as storage for screws, nails and other small items. Use a screw or two to attach the top of the jar to the underside of a shelf. Fill the jar with whatever, and screw the jar onto its top.

Pegboards are another storage classic. They're great because you can see everything; the tools aren't lost in a drawer somewhere. If you want, you can draw the outline of the tools on the pegboard; that way, you can tell at a glance if one is missing and could be in use building a tree fort.

A metal bow rake that's lost its handle can gain a new life in the garage. Remove most of the handle, drill a pilot hole through the remainder and screw it to the wall. It's perfect for hanging your garden tools. 

Old metal garbage cans can get recycled, too. They're great for storing bags of soil and fertilizer — a great alternative to piling them up in the corner. Drill some holes in the bottom so that the nutrients in the soil or fertilizer can "breathe." Otherwise, they can go rancid. 

Old tires can go green, too. It's not something you can do yourself, but tires can be turned into rubber mulch. It's a little more expensive, but it lasts for 10 years or so, and it doesn't fade. It won't wash away, either; it's heavier than regular mulch. 

Some manufacturers also make garden hoses out of old tires, too, and they're less expensive than new-rubber hoses.

5 Shower Door Shopping Tips

Posted on August 26, 2017 at 2:10 PM Comments comments (14423)

Before you even think about walking into a store or placing an order online, there are some things you’ll want to consider when shopping for a new shower door. Having these five steps completed before you shop will save you time and stress and streamline the decision-making process.

1. Pick Your Style: Shower, Pivot or Tub


Take a look at the space where your shower door will go. Do you have a narrow stall shower? A pivoting shower door (with or without a track) is the right choice. Will your shower door cover a bathtub? Pick the sliding tub door. If you’ve got a wider shower stall, choose the sliding shower door.

2. Measure Twice, Order Once


Take careful measurements of the shower opening to ensure your shower doors will fit the space. Use the width at the widest point to select the appropriate size. Choose a shower door that has a maximum width equal to or greater than the maximum width of your tub or shower opening.

3. At A Glance: Pick Your Shower Glass


Decide on the style of glass you prefer. If privacy is paramount, choose a glass with a pattern or texture. If the natural light from a nearby window energizes your morning shower, clear glass is a classic choice.


4. Finish Strong


Take a look around your bathroom and decide whether you want your shower door’s hardware and track to match the finishes already on display. You can also think of your shower door as a fresh start and purchase new coordinating items, depending on your budget.

5. See It Before You Buy It


Instead of trying to imagine what your shower door will look like, use the design tool to try different configurations and find the door that is right for you. You can even zoom in and take screen shots for a side-by-side comparison.


By following these five steps, you’ll be sure to order the shower door of your dreams. You can feel confident in-store or online after you’ve made these critical decisions. Happy shopping!


Making a Good To-Do-List to Actually Get Sh!t Done!

Posted on June 7, 2017 at 10:55 AM Comments comments (2139)

Between work (or homework), working out, hanging out with friends, and other real-life obligations, achieving our goals and making deadlines is almost always harder than it seems. Creating an efficient to-do list is a feat in itself, and that’s where I come in. I've prepared a list of helpful tips to help you organize your life into a manageable list, then cross off each entry one at a time.

The Need to Know--To Do or Not To Do

List-making is a personal thing. Some of us border on obsessive, organizing the bathroom can turn into a series of numbered bullet points. Others prefer to wing it, writing important telephone numbers on the backs of their hands. But even the most basic outline of must-do tasks can help us tackle our most important goals. For one thing, writing out a bunch of to-do’s forces us to set concrete goals (take out the trash), which can be way more effective than just thinking about vague objectives (get cleaner).  Plus, making a written list can help us remember important information (meaning that trash won’t sit waiting in the kitchen for weeks) .

The problem is that even those of us who believe fervently in the power of to-do lists might not know how to make a successful one. Luckily I'm here to help, with a step-by-step guide to creating—and completing—an awesome list of stuff to get done.

Let's Get it Done---Just To-Do It

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The Easy Way to Make and Complete a To-Do List

* Pick a medium.

To-do lists come in all shapes and sizes, so it’s all about what works for the individual. Some research suggests writing information by hand helps us remember it better, but if you last picked up a pen in 1995, fear not: There’s a huge range of digital apps that help create personal to-do lists.

* Let's Keep it simple.

There’s nothing more intimidating than a mile-long to-do list. And, realistically, it’s impossible to get that much stuff done in 24 hours anyway. One trick for keeping a HIT list simple is to make a list of stuff you want to do today and slice it in half. There shouldn’t be more than 10 items remaining; the rest can go on the weekly projects list or the master list.

* Have Multiple Lists.

Create a few lists of stuff that needs to get done. One should be a master list, with every item you’d like to accomplish in the long-term: Clean out the closet, sign up for a language class, etc. Another can be a weekly project list, with everything that needs to take place in the next seven days. The third should be a HIT (that’s high-impact tasks) list, with the tasks that need to get done today: Call Aunt Sue for her birthday, pick up the dry cleaning, finish that presentation for work. Every day, see which items from the master list and weekly project list should move to the HIT list.

*  MITs.

That’s “most important tasks.” Start the list with at least two items that absolutely must get done today, so you don’t end up vacuuming instead of finishing a project report due tomorrow. Even if the rest of the list stays untouched, the really meaningful stuff will get finished.

* Break it down.

Goals such as “work on research paper” are much too vague and intimidating, meaning we’ll be too afraid to actually start tackling them. One way to reduce the fear factor and make goals seem more manageable is to break projects into smaller tasks. Instead of “work on research paper,” try something more specific, such as “write first half of chapter three” on Monday and “write second half of chapter three” on Tuesday.

* Start easy.

Even before those MITs (see above), stick a few simple items on the list. “Fold clothes,” “wash breakfast dishes,” and “shower” are all good examples. Even crossing off silly stuff helps us start the day feeling super-productive.

*  Be and Stay specific.

All to-do’s should have these qualities (among others) in common: They’re physical actions; they can be finished in one sitting; and they’re tasks that only the to-do-list writer can do. For general projects that require lots of time or other people’s help, list specific steps you can take toward your goal. Instead of “save the animals,” try “write cover letter for internship at World Wildlife Fund.”

*  Include it all.

For every task on the list, include as much information as possible so there’s literally no excuse for not getting the job done. For example, if the task involves calling someone, include that person’s phone number on the list so you won’t waste time scrambling for it later.

*  Don’t stress out.

Every master list has a few tasks on it that we’ve been meaning to do for days, weeks, maybe even years—but haven’t yet. Try to figure out why not in order to learn what steps are necessary for actually completing the task. Not calling Uncle Pat out of fear of getting stuck on the phone for the whole afternoon? Replace “Call Uncle Pat” with “figure out a way to get off the phone with Uncle Pat.” This way the big task will seem easier, and eventually get done.

*  Make it public.

Sometimes the best way to stay accountable is to have someone watching over us. Try sharing that to-do list, whether by posting it on the refrigerator or setting up a digital calendar that everyone on the work team can access. 

*  Schedule your scheduling.

One of the trickiest aspects of the to-do list is actually sitting down to make one. Pick a time every day, whether it’s the morning before everyone else wakes up, the hour right before going to bed, or lunchtime, when you can organize all your tasks and determine what still needs to be accomplished.

* Always start fresh.

Make a new list every day so the same old items don’t clog up the agenda. It’s also a useful way to make sure we actually get something done every 24 hours and don’t just spend time decorating the paper with fancy highlighters.

*  In with the old.

One way to boost productivity is to remind ourselves how productive we were yesterday. So keep a written list of everything you accomplished the day before, even the small stuff.

*  Always be flexible.

Pro tip: Always leave about 15 minutes of “cushion time” in between items on the to-do list or calendar in case something pops up (say the washing machine overflows or the computer crashes). And if a crisis does strike, the most important thing is to remember to stop and breathe. You’ve probably already accomplished at least one MIT—you’ll get the rest under control!

Tips for Hiring a Handyman

Posted on May 28, 2017 at 4:40 PM Comments comments (1758)

Before You Hire Your Home Repair Handyman…

Make a detailed list of the work you need done.

Take the time to list exactly what you want your handyman to accomplish before you contact one. Be upfront with what you expect, so the handyman can determine if your requests are within his abilities. Don’t throw in any surprises mid-way through the job.  List most important projects first!  Honey-Do List's work everytime!

*  Get good reliable local references and online reviews.

Nothing will ease your mind better than a glowing report from a neighbor a few blocks stating that a particular handyman was prompt, did quality work, and completely lived up to expectations. Handymen rely on word-of-mouth to build their businesses. One that’s worth hiring will easily be able to supply you with at least 3 good references.  Also check their References/Reviews online if they're listed on service sites or have their own website.

 Make sure your handyman is licensed, bonded, and insured.

If someone working on your property should become injured, unless they have their own liability insurance you will be fully liable. Reputable handymen carry insurance for this purpose and to cover them if they should cause damage to your property.

*  Request cost estimates for both labor and materials ahead of time.

Generally speaking, an estimate should be within 10% of the actual cost. Make this fact clear to potential candidates in order to prevent them giving you a low-ball offer just to get you to hire them. If they know up front that there will be no further payment beyond a specific amount, then they have the option of turning down the job (which may be better for you in the long run). If a detailed estimate requires them to go price shopping, expect to pay a fair hourly wage for their effort.

 Make sure you’re comfortable with how they price their work.

For example, do they expect to be paid by the hour? Or are they willing to be paid by the job? This needs to be settled before any work is started and especially before any supplies or parts are ordered.

*  Establish a schedule for the work to be done.

Determine how soon the work will be started, when it will most likely be completed, and a timeframe as to when your handyman expects to be on the job. Once the project starts, hold him to the schedule you’ve both agreed to. Sometimes, if a handyman gets a better offer on a project down the road, they will sideline yours in order to go work for the more profitable customer. 

*  Get a contract in writing.

With a written agreement there will be no confusion, miscommunication, or forgotten details. Not only will you be clearly defining what’s expected, but in the event that your handyman doesn’t hold up his end of the bargain, you will have documented proof to take with you to court.

*  Don’t be cheap.  

You will usually get exactly what you pay for!

Grab Bars for Safety in the Bathroom

Posted on May 5, 2017 at 4:15 PM Comments comments (13660)

Fall Prevention Awareness: The Importance of Grab Bars for Bathroom Safety - Steps

The bathroom is the most dangerous room in your home.  Is your bathroom safe for seniors?  Here are some tips to help prevent falls in the bathroom.

*  Put nonslip strips, mats or tiles in your tub and shower to help prevent falls. To combat tripping, secure any loose corners on mats.

*  Ditch your throw rugs. These slippery floor coverings are the No. 1 cause of household falls. If you just can't part with them in the bathroom, secure loose rugs with double-faced tape, tacks or slip-resistant backings.

*  Be sure to keep the tub clean to counteract slippery soap scum or mold.

*  Keep the bathroom floor dry, making sure it has no water on it. A weighted shower curtain will help ensure that no water leaks onto the floor.

*  Place GRAB BARS or rails in or around the bathtub, shower and toilet. When installed properly and securely, they’ll help you balance as you stand or sit and give you something to hold on to if you do slip. They come in a variety of lengths, textures and styles. (Note that a towel bar or a soap dish isn’t a substitute for a grab bar, as it's not designed to hold your weight).

*  Your bathroom should be adequately lit during the day. At night, put a nightlight on the path to the bathroom. Within the bathroom, use a nightlight, or install an illuminated switch.

*  If your toilet seat is low, consider buying a toilet seat extender or a toilet with a higher seat. That way you can get up safely and with less effort.  You can also install toilet Grab Bar and Safety Bars.

*  Put a bath or shower seat or bench in the shower or tub. You'll then have a place to sit.

*  Equip your shower with a handheld or adjustable shower head. You can maneuver it where you want it, minimizing your movement in the shower. Also, you can use it while sitting safely on your bath seat or bench.

*  Take your time. The more you rush, the more likely you are to fall.

Learn more...

Be safe,

Larry Torliatt