Monday, February 27, 2006

Proper Care for Laminate Flooring

Laminate flooring is one of the most popular, most versatile and most durable of all flooring materials. One of the most well known features of laminate flooring is how easy it is to care for. Laminate floors are very easy to take care of, and very resistant to damage, but it is important to care for them properly to keep them looking their best.

Tips for keeping your laminate flooring looking new
Here’s how to keep your laminate flooring looking brand new, year after year:

1. Be sure to carefully read the care instructions and the warranty for the flooring. Be sure to follow the care instructions given, as failure to do so could void the warranty.
2. Ask the installer or the vendor for a list of post-installation care tips. For instance, some brands of laminate flooring should not be mopped within 48 hours of installation.
3. When cleaning laminate flooring the best way is to vacuum the floor and them damp mop them. The laminate flooring should not be wet mopped, since any puddles created could seep underneath the laminate floor and cause damage.
4. Wax and acrylic floor polishes should not be applied to laminate floor.
5. When removing stains from laminate flooring, be sure to use only the stain removal products approved by the manufacturer of the flooring. Many manufacturers suggest using acetone for spills like nail polish and for cigarette burns, and mineral spirits to remove grease, oil and tar.
6. Be sure to use a doormat at the doors that lead in from the outside of the home or from the garage. A simple doormat can do a lot to keep laminate flooring looking like new. The doormat will help to trap grit and grease that would otherwise end up on the flooring.
7. Use easy glide rollers on furniture feet to avoid scarring the laminate flooring.
8. If you need to move heavy furniture across a laminate floor surface, use a dolly. Laminate floors can be damaged when sliding heavy furniture across it.
9. Use common sense procedures to protect the laminate floor from damage when working around the home. For instance, lay down a carpet or a thick tarp to protect the laminate floor if you are using a drill or similar instrument. If you drop the tool, you could damage the floor. Take steps to protect the floor from damage.

Choosing the Perfect Sensor for Your Home Security System

Home security systems are incredibly important to a feeling of safety and well being, but the security system is only as good as the sensors that come with it. The typical security system will contain a number of different sensors, including motion sensors, sensors that detect breaking glass or forced doors, carbon monoxide detectors, heat detectors and smoke detectors. It is important to focus on those sensors that are most important to you, and to look for the home security system that provides the greatest value for the money.

Do Your Homework
It is important to put a lot of planning and research into buying a home security system. Buying such a system is a big investment, and it is important to choose a system that meets your needs. During the planning, you should:

1. Look around the interior and exterior of the home. Pay attention to how close your home is to the street and the neighbors. Do those passing by have a clear view into the windows? Which windows can they see and not see?
2. Determine which windows and doors need to be monitored by sensors. This should include those windows that cannot be seen from the street, those in the rear of the house, and those in dark corners or behind bushes.
3. Think about how you life. Do you have people coming and going at all hours? Do you have a large dog who could inadvertently trigger a sensitive motion sensor? Do you have a cat who comes in and out of the house via a pet door?

The process of selecting the sensors involves the following steps:

1. Get enough door switches for all the entry doors in the home. These door switches are most often magnet switches. When the door is opened, it breaks the circuit, tripping the alarm.
2. Count the number of window switches you will need. Windows that can be observed by neighbors may not need a window switch. Be sure to put switches on all windows in the rear of the home, any windows which are hidden by bushes and any windows that are in dark corners.
3. Determine how many zones you will have with your security system. Every sensor is a zone, so make sure you can use all the window switches you need without going beyond the capabilities of the system.
4. For some rooms, you may want to use glass breaking sensors instead of window switches. This will help to limit the number of window switches you need while at the same time increasing the effectiveness of the alarm system.
5. Use motion sensors for the stairway leading to the second floor of the home, or for the hallway leading to the bedrooms. If you have a pet, make sure the sensor is installed above the level of the pet. Some motion sensors are able to distinguish between an animal and a person, so be sure to ask if you have pets.
6. Put a keypad upstairs, or down the hall close to the bedrooms. This way a family member can easily turn off the motion sensor if need be.
7. Also place a keypad near the front door so that late returning family members can disable the alarm and motion sensors.

Tips for Repairing Vinyl Siding

Vinyl siding is one of the most attractive of all exterior home options, at least until it gets damaged. Damaged vinyl siding is not only unsightly, but it can also lead to further damage to both the interior and exterior of the home. While vinyl siding is usually quite durable, it is important to deal with any damage right away to prevent it from getting worse.

Damage to vinyl siding is typically caused by weather events, most likely wind damage. If the damage is extensive it will probably be necessary to hire a qualified siding contractor to repair or replace the damaged pieces. However, simple cracks due to extremely low temperatures are one of the most commonly seen problems with vinyl siding, and luckily those problems can be fixed quite easily. In order to fix these cold weather induced cracks, take the following steps.

1. Wait until the weather has warmed. It is best to repair these cracks in the springtime.
2. Purchase a zip tool at the local home improvement warehouse, or from a siding distributor. The zip tool is specially designed to slide along the bottom edge of the locked piece of siding.
3. Insert this zip tool beneath the bottom edge of the section lying right above the one to be repaired.
4. Pull down on the zip tool. This should pry the lip of the siding loose.
5. Remove any nails that are holding he damaged piece to the exterior wall of the home.
6. Pull the damaged piece of siding out and lay it down carefully on a flat surface.
7. Use PVC cleaner to thoroughly coat the back of the crack.
8. Use a quality PVC cement to carefully glue a piece of scrap siding to the back of the crack.
9. Place the siding back into place. Nail the top of the siding down, being sure to leave about a 1/8 gap between the head of the nail and the siding strip.
10. Use the zip tool to pull the piece of siding back into its locked position.
It is important for every homeowner with a vinyl sided home to carefully examine the home at least once a month for cracks or tears in the siding. If any are noted, consider their severity and determine whether or not you will be able to do the repairs on your own. During cold weather, if you notice cracks in the siding, write down their location and take care of them in the spring. It is better to take care of all the cracks at once than to try to do them one at a time.

Tips for Hiring a Great Siding Contractor

Installing siding on a home can greatly improve the look, and the value, of the home, but it is important to hire a contractor you can trust. Listed below are some tips for hiring the best person for the job.

1. Think about the type of siding you want to use. Aluminum and vinyl siding are both less costly and easier to care for, while clapboard siding is more expensive and also requires more maintenance.

2. Make sure that the siding contractor you choose has experience installing the type of siding you have chosen. By the time you get around to choosing a contractor, you should already know what type of siding you will be installing.

3. Ask friends, neighbors and family members for recommendations. If you like the looks of your neighbor’s siding, be sure to ask where they got it and who installed it.

4. Contact several siding contractors, using both the recommendations you received and the telephone book.

5. Ask the potential siding contractors to visit the site and provide a quote for the job based on the siding material you have selected.

6. Always be sure that the contractor has experience installing your specific kind of siding. Not all siding contractors will be able to install all kinds of siding.

7. Provide the siding contractor with a written list of the things you need, and make sure all siding contractors are given the same set of specifications. This will make it much easier to compare bids.

8. If removal of old siding is needed, make sure that the quote you receive includes removal and disposal of the unwanted siding.

9. Always be sure to get references from your potential siding contractors. Be sure to follow up on these references. Ask open, leading questions in order to ascertain how satisfied each customer is with his or her siding.

10. Choose the siding contractor based on a combination of your overall impressions, price and experience. Do not choose a siding contractor based on price alone.

11. Work out a contract which specifies the work which is to be done, the total cost, the schedule for payment, any down payment required, the proposed starting date and the estimated date of completion.

12. Be sure that the contract stipulates that the siding contractor is responsible for removing any old siding, as well as any debris that accumulates during the installation of the siding.

Relighting the Pilot Light on a Hot Water Heater

At some point it will probably become necessary for every homeowner who has a hot water heater to relight the pilot light on the heater. Whether the pilot light went out due to a malfunction, or if it was turned off intentionally when the homeowner was planning to be away for an extended period of time, the procedure for relighting it is the same.

Follow these simple steps to relight the pilot light on your hot water heater:

1. Be sure to start by setting the gas control knob to the off position. Then turn the thermostat down to its lowest setting (in most cases this is done by turning the knob clockwise). After the control knob has been tuned off, wait five minutes to allow any accumulated gas to clear from the water tank. If you still smell gas after five minutes has passed, you should stop immediately and call the utility company for emergency service.

2. If no gas smell is present, open or remove both the inner and outer access doors to the burning chamber, using a pair of pliers or a wrench. You will probably need to use a flashlight to find the end of the pilot light tube. This tube extends from the gas control value and into the burning chamber itself. Move to a spot where you can comfortably and easily reach this point to see what you are doing.

3. Twist the control knob over to the pilot position, then immediately hold a match close to the end of the pilot light tube. Press and hold the reset button on the gas control valve, then remove the match as soon as the pilot light goes on. Keep the reset button depressed for another minute.

4. If the pilot light on the water heater does not remain on, repeat the steps listed above. If the pilot light does stay on, turn the gas cock located on the control valve to the on position, then set the thermostat to the temperature you want. Replace the inner and outer access panels and you are done. Of course it goes without saying that proper safety procedures must always be followed when working around the hot water heater or any other gas powered equipment. Be sure to test the air carefully for the scent of gas, and if you smell gas when no smell should be present, call the utility company immediately. If you have not read the safety procedures and precautions that came with the hot water heater, be sure to do so before you attempt to relight the pilot light.

Tips for Buying Roofing Materials

There are many things to consider when buying roofing materials, and many different kinds of roofing materials to choose from. While in some cases your decision may be made for you by budget and other factors, even within the same price range their may be a number of different materials to choose from.

Here are some of the best tips for choosing the best roofing materials and getting the most for your money.

Ø Carefully calculate the square footage of the roofing area. This will include the surface of the roof itself, of course, and the square footage of the roof will be different from the square footage of the living area of the home. This will vary according to the slope of the roof, but the square footage of the roof generally falls between 110% and 130% of the square footage of the top floor of the home.

Ø Think carefully about the kind of roofing material you prefer to use. This decision may be made for you by your budget. Asphalt shingles are the least expensive option, while those homeowners with more money may opt for slate or wood roofing instead.

Ø Be sure to compare the various roofing materials at several different home centers. It helps to actually look at the shingles to see what you are getting. Most asphalt shingles will be graded according to the length of the warranty being offered by the manufacturer. In most cases the warranty period will be from 20 to 50 years. The higher end asphalt shingles will come with a longer guarantee, and they will have a heavier and higher quality appearance as well.

Ø Wood and shale roofing will have a more limited range of choices. When installing a slate roof, you will need to choose between natural slate and manufactured slate. You will also, of course, need to choose a color for the slate.

Ø Be sure to consult with your roofing contractor before you order the materials. Be sure that the roofing contractor has plenty of experience in installing the material you choose. If he or she does not, start looking for another roofing contractor.
Roofing is certainly not fun or exciting like some remodeling projects can be. Unlike installing a new kitchen or a new whirlpool tub, however, a quality, well installed roof can keep you safe from the elements in even the worst weather conditions.

How to Troubleshoot Common Electrical Problems

We never find out just how dependent we are on electricity until the power goes out. For many of us, losing electricity means no cooking, no heat, no shower and of course no TV. When the electrical devices in our homes fail us, it can create a major inconvenience, and it is important for every homeowner to know how to troubleshoot minor electrical problems. It is also important for that homeowner to know which problems are beyond his or her skills, and when to call a certified electrician.

Resetting a circuit breaker
Let’s start with perhaps the most common of all electrical problems, resetting a circuit breaker. Few homeowners have not experienced the need to reset a circuit breaker, and those who have not will someday. In order to reset a circuit breaker, take the following steps:

1. When the circuit breaker is tripped, it will move about halfway between the full on and full off position, and it should move back and forth a bit when it is wiggled.

2. To reset the circuit breaker, push it back to the full off position (this will be the opposite of all the other circuit breakers in the column). Then push it back to the full on position and immediately let it go. If it trips again, push it to the full off position and secure it with a piece of electrical tape until you can figure out what is causing it to trip.

Testing a live receptacle
In order to properly and safety test a live receptacle, follow these steps:

1. Plug the probes of a continuity tester into the vertical slots of the receptacle. The continuity tester will glow if there is power to the receptacle. If there is more than one outlet on the receptacle, be sure to test both. In some cases the two halves will be on different circuits.

2. You can also use a neon tester to test the receptacle. The neon tester will analyze the wiring, and it will light up to indicate a problem.
Testing an open outlet box for power

In order to test an open outlet box for power:

1. Shut off the power going to the circuit from the service panel. Make sure the circuit is in the full off position.

2. Remove the cover from the outlet and remove the device. You can also bend out any connected wired, keeping the ends apart.

3. Test a device by probing the terminal screw with a lead from the neon tester while probing the metal outlet box or grounding wire with the second lead.

4. Test the connected wires by removing the nut just enough to expose the wire, then probe the wire with either a bare grounding wire or the metal outlet box.

Choosing the Right Pattern for Laminate Flooring

Anyone who has ventured into one of those huge home improvement warehouses lately, or flipped through the flooring book at the local flooring center, knows just how many patterns of laminate flooring there are to choose from these days. With this many styles, colors and patterns to choose from, making a choice can be difficult.

There are a number of pointers that can make choosing laminate flooring a bit easier. These tips include:

Ø Be sure to go shopping with an overall look and feel in mind. Before you leave home, take a good look at the room. Decide whether light, medium or dark flooring would be best. Think about other options as well, such as stone, pine, oak, etc.
Ø Make your choice based on the type of mood you want to create with the flooring. Do you want a light and open tone, or do you want to create a warm and cozy atmosphere instead? Virtually any mood can be set with the right flooring, from light and playful to formal and elegant, and everything in between.
Ø Remember that although stone and wood laminate flooring is made to closely approximate the genuine article, it can look fake when contrasted to the real thing. For instance, you would not want to place a marble laminate floor in a room that abuts genuine marble, just as you would not want to install a faux oak laminate flooring next to a genuine oak floor.
Ø Pay careful attention to the patterns with grains. These grained patterns will be better able to hide dirt. Very light patterns and very dark ones will need to be cleaned more often.
Ø Laminate flooring patterns with light textures, such as those that are made to look like stone or wood, will be less slippery when wet than real stone or wood flooring.
Ø Pay attention to optical illusions that can be created by certain laminate flooring patterns. For instance, a laminate floor that uses a single long strip pattern may not look good in a long and narrow room. When laid down in a square room, the long strips can create the illusion of a rectangular space.
Ø Keep in mind that laminate flooring is designed to last for many years, so it may be best to avoid a trendy pattern that may not last. It is also best to avoid matching the laminate flooring with draperies, wallpaper or other materials that may be replaced more often. It is a good idea to choose more classic patterns and colors for such a long lasting flooring material.

A Guide to Replacing Window Channels

Replacing the loose channels on those old wood sash windows is not anyone’s idea of fun, but it is one of the least expensive, and most effective, ways to save energy and lower heating bills.

Preparing the window

1. Carefully measure each window that will be upgraded. Take the measurements with you when you shop at your local home improvement center or hardware store. The employees will be able to help you find the right window channel kits. These kits will be made of either metal or plastic, so any cutting needed should be done using a hacksaw or a pair of tin snips.

2. Carefully remove the wooden channel from both ends of the window, using a small flat pry bar or the claw end of a hammer. The sash should now come out of the window frame easily.

3. Open up the sash wells by carefully removing the casing on both sides of the window. These sash wells can be insulated for further energy savings.

4. Attach the window casing and begin applying the new window channel.

5. Be careful to not damage the window frames, the walls or the trim when removing the old window channels.

6. Old windows can be quite heavy. It is a good idea to have another person around to help you remove them.

Steps for installing the new window channel
1. Cut the window jamb part of the channel to the proper length. The new window channel should fit against the inside wood channel within the jamb.

2. Fasten the window channel to the jamb, following the manufacturers’ instructions. Some manufacturers will use nails, while others will use screws.

3. It may be necessary to remove some material from both edges of the window sash before installing the sash portion of the new channel. The directions provided by the manufacturer of the channel should give you the exact space needed. If material needs to be removed it can be gently sanded away using a plane or sander.

4. After the necessary modifications have been made, attach the sash portion to both sides of the window sash.

5. Carefully snap the sash into place within the new channel. Test the fit by sliding the sash up and down a couple of times. The replacement channel should flex just enough to allow the sash to be snapped back into place.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Tips for Hiring a Qualified Roofing Contractor

Replacing a roof is never easy, or cheap, but it is important to hire a roofing contractor who is honest, trustworthy, reliable and qualified. Replacing a new roof, or installing a new roof, is a major project, and it is important to use care when choosing the person or company who will install it.

Here are some tips for choosing the best roofing contractor:

Ø There are many different roofing materials to choose from. Make sure the contractor you choose has experience installing the kind of roofing you want.
Ø Decide what kind of roofing material you want to use before shopping for a contractor. The contractor will need to know what kind of material he or she will be working with in order to provide an accurate estimate. The decision of materials will be largely a function of your taste and your budget.
Ø Ask family members, friends and neighbors for recommendations on roofing contractors. If someone you know has recently had a roof replaced, ask who did it, and how they like the results.
Ø Contact several different roofing contractors, using both the recommendations you receive and your own resources. You may want to check with local builders for recommendations, and look in the newspaper or telephone directory.
Ø Be sure to have the contractors actually come to your home in order to quote a price. The contractors will need to see the property in order to provide an accurate quote.
Ø Be sure that all roofing contractors are bidding on the same kind of roofing, like asphalt or slate.
Ø Be sure the estimate you receive includes removing the old roofing, as well as clearing out any debris created during the installation of the new roof.
Ø Ask for references of all the roofing contractors you interview, and be sure to check those references carefully. Call the former customers and ask open ended leading questions to ascertain their level of satisfaction with the job that was done.
Ø After you have chosen a roofing contractor, be sure that the contract you are given includes the total cost, the required down payment and payment schedule, the amount of material to be used, the start date and the projected date of completion. Try to minimize the deposit you have to pay prior to the start of the work if at all possible.
Ø If problems crop up after the job is completed, be sure to notify the roofing contractor at once. Most reliable roofing contractors will be happy to make any needed adjustments or repairs.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

How to Wire Up an Electrical Dryer

Many homeowners assume that they will need the help of a professional in order to properly install an electrical dryer, but this is not necessarily the case. With some knowledge, some patience and some planning it is possible to wire your own electrical dryer.

It is important to know that modern dryers come with separate neutral and ground wires. This setup is generally safer, since the neutral wire that carries the current is not hooked up to the dryer case. However, this setup is worthless if the receptacle on the wall does not have a separate ground slot. If that is the case, you will first need to convert the four wire dryer into a three wire setup.

In order to do that, follow the steps listed below:

1. Identify the kind of plug needed by taking a look at the slot pattern of the current receptacle. It will be necessary to purchase a new power cord or plug from a home improvement or hardware store. In most cases this cord should cost no more than $15.

2. At the dryer end, the new cord will have only three wires, with no ground wire. The middle wire of eh cable is the neutral wire, and the other two wires are live wires. The hot wires will connect to the two outer connections on the power terminal block of the dryer. It does not matter which one is connected to which connection, as long as the live wire is connected to each of the outer terminal connections. Each outer wire provides 110-120, for a total voltage of 220-240 volts.

3. The middle wire of the cable will go into the middle connector. In this case the neutral wire will serve as a neutral and a ground connection, and the ground strap will also be connected to the center terminal, as well as to the frame of the dryer.

4. If the cord to the dryer uses colored wires, the neutral wire will be white, and the red and black wires will be the hot wires which need to be connected to the two outer connections. The ground strap, or green wire will be connected to the dryer frame.

It is of course very important to follow all safety and installation precautions provided by the manufacturer of the dryer and related equipment. If you feel that you need help, always seek the advice and guidance of a qualified electrician.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Tips for Buying the Best Hardwood Flooring

Hardwood flooring is one of the most beautiful, versatile and cost effective home improvements you can make. High quality, properly laid down hardwood floors can last for decades or even a lifetime. What’s more, hardwood floors create a warm, inviting and welcoming home environment.

Listed below are some tips for choosing and buying the best hardwood flooring products.

Ø Choose the areas of the home where the hardwood flooring is to be installed
Ø Measure the area to determine its square footage, remembering the old adage – measure twice, cut once.
Ø Find out if a plywood sub floor has already been installed. If the area is currently carpeted, remove a piece of carpet and look underneath. You may find that you can use a 5/16 inch or 3/8 inch thick engineered flooring product.
Ø Determine whether you prefer a pre-finished or unfinished surface for your hardwood floors. The pre-finished hardwood flooring will have already had the polyurethane coating applied to it, eliminating the need for you to apply the finish. An unfinished hardwood floor will need to be sanded and coated after it has been installed.
Ø Look at the various stain colors that are available when choosing a pre-finished hardwood floor. The pre-finished floor will come already stained, so it is important to choose a color that is classic in appearance.
Ø Unfinished flooring provides a greater range of choices in finishing. Pre-finished products usually provide only three or four finish styles. The choices for finishing an unfinished hardwood floor are much greater.
Ø Decide on whether you will need to hire and installer or if you will be installing the flooring yourself. Various types of hardwood flooring comes in many different varieties. Some can be nailed or glued, while others lay down using pre-attached strips of adhesive coated tape. It is easier for the novice floor installer to apply the latter type of flooring.
Ø If you plan to use a professional installer, be sure to consult the installer before you order the materials. There will be a waste factor to the installation, and it is important to factor this in when ordering. In most cases you should figure on between 15% and 25% waste. Be sure you and the installer are in agreement over the amount of product needed to cover the floor.
Ø Be sure to shop around at several different stores or hardwood flooring suppliers. Also be sure to compare both price and quality.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Keeping Your Hot Water Heater in Top Shape

Keeping the hot water heater in tip top condition may not be on anyone’s list of favorite things to do, but it is important to take proper care of this important appliance. The water heater is one of the top energy consumers in any home, and keeping it in great shape can have an important impact on your energy bills. In addition, keeping the water heater in good shape will help keep it from breaking down in the middle of your next shower.

Some tips for keeping your hot water heater running smoothly:

Ø Set the thermostat of the hot water heater at 120 degrees Fahrenheit if you do not also have a dishwasher. If you do have a dishwasher in the home, check the manual that came with the water heater for the proper thermostat setting.
Ø Drain the tank of the hot water heater about three or four times a year. This is essential if you have hard water, but it is important even if you have a water softener installed.
Ø Make sure your water heater is not losing heat. Feel the side of the heater. If it feels hot to the touch, you may want to wrap it with an insulating blanket of Fiberglass. These hot water heater blankets are available at most home improvement stores. If you do use such a blanket, be sure never to cover the top of the heater. The hot water heater needs air circulation in order to operate safely and efficiently.
Ø Look for the plate on the hot water heater that states how many gallons of water it can heat per hour. If the heater seems to be slow, like if you are not getting additional hot water within 15 minutes of running out, the water heater may be having problems. Start looking for a solution before the problem gets worse.
Ø If you are going to be away for more than a couple of days, turn off the hot water heater. This will help to preserve the life of the water heater and save on your energy bills.
Ø If you have a gas hot water heater, take care never to block the air flow going to the burner in the bottom. If you do so the pilot flame will not be able to get enough oxygen, and the pilot light will go out.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

How to Purchase Siding for Your Home

Siding is one of the most beautiful, and most durable of all exterior home treatments, but with so many different kinds on the market it can sometimes be difficult to choose the right kind. It is important to shop around carefully for the best price and the best quality.

Take the following steps when shopping for the best siding for your home:

1. Carefully calculate the square footage of the part of the home where the siding will be applied.

2. Think about the kind of siding you prefer. The least expensive options are vinyl and aluminum siding, and both of these options also have the advantage of having low maintenance needs. Shakes and wood clapboard are more expensive options, but they also need more maintenance, especially if they are pained and not stained.

3. Look far and wide for ideas. Browse through your favorite home and design magazines, and be sure to look on the internet for inspiration as well. Looking at all these sources will help give you a good idea of what kind of material will look best on your home.

4. Once you have determined which type of siding best suits your needs, be sure to shop around for the best price. The prices on vinyl and aluminum siding, as well as the more expensive shakes and wood clapboard, can vary quite a bit between stores. Be sure to compare prices and quality carefully.

5. When choosing a supplier, be sure to consider the various quality levels the supplier has available. Most suppliers will have several different grades of siding for the buyer to choose from. For instance, the highest quality (and most expensive) wood siding will contain the fewest number of knots. Better grades of aluminum and vinyl siding will be heavier, and have a more natural appearance. Be sure to ask about the warranties offered with each grade of siding.

6. Be sure to consult with the contractor who will be installing the siding before making the final purchase. Be sure to confirm the quantity needed for the job, and to make sure that the contractor you have chosen has the experience needed to do the job.

7. Finally, order the amount of siding you need, in the material you have chosen, and make an appointment to have it installed on your home.

8. Enjoy the finished product and care for it according to the manufacturers’ specifications.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

How to Choose a Reliable Home Alarm System

The roof over your head is your most important asset, and it just makes sense to protect that asset and those you love with a quality home alarm system. Home alarm systems can be expensive and complicated, so it is important to determine what your security needs are before you start looking for a home alarm.

The steps involved in finding the perfect home alarm include:

1. Take a look around the exterior of your home to look for the weak spots in security. Look for windows and doors that are not visible from the street, those that are hidden by shrubbery and those that are on the back of the house.

2. Count the number of such doors and windows. These doors and windows should have sensors installed and be integrated into the home alarm system.

3. Look for good spots for the keypad and control center of the alarm system. It may be convenient to place one keypad near the entrance to the front door of the home, another near the bedrooms and a third one on the second story of the home. Also find a good location for the control center. The control center is used to command the entire system, while the keypads allow users to program the system and turn it on and off.

4. Look at how far away the windows and doors are from the control panel. This will help you determine how far the wires will need to be routed if you choose a wired alarm system, or alternatively hw far a wireless system will need to communicate using sensors. Unless the home is still being built, it will be very difficult to install a wired system.

5. Decide on what type of monitoring you will need. Will you need a home security system that is monitored 24 hours a day? This central monitoring system will “watch” your home day and night for a monthly fee. In lieu of this 24 hour monitoring, some people opt for the less expensive option of a basic sensor type system connected to a dialer. This dialer can be programmed to call the police if the home alarm is tripped.

6. When thinking about your alarm system needs, consider your lifestyle. Do you have large pets that could trip the alarm system? If so you will want to position the sensors at an appropriate height. Will your family members be coming in at odd hours? You will need to be sure that every adult or teenage member of the family knows how to work the system properly.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

How to Choose a Reliable Home Monitoring Company

There are few things in life more important than the choice of a quality home alarm and a quality home alarm monitoring company. There are many styles of home alarm, but the safety, security and service you receive will only be as good as the company doing the monitoring. It is vital to know that the company you choose will be there to call the appropriate authorities if the alarm is tripped.

There is of course a monthly fee required for this monitoring service, and the fees can vary widely between home security companies and between areas of the country. It is important to determine which services are included in the basic monthly plan, and which ones may cost extra.

There area number of important steps to take when choosing a home security monitoring company, including:

1. Ask your insurance agent, family members and friends for referrals. Ask them you they use, and what they like and do not like about the service they have received. While those who have actually used the service in the event of a break-in or suspected break-in will be able to give you more complete information, they should be able to judge the service even without this firsthand experience.

2. Check with several companies, both those that have been recommended to you and those you have found on your own through the telephone directory, local ads and the internet. Ask the company if their employees are trained and certified by the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association. Also ask if their employees participate in the Installation Quality Certification Program. Finally, make sure the company holds all necessary state and local licenses.

3. Consult with your local police department’s crime prevention bureau, with consumer protection agencies, with the Better Business Bureau and with the appropriate state licensing agencies to make sure there are no outstanding complaints against the companies you are considering.

4. Use the information you have gathered to narrow the choices down to between two and four companies.

5. Call those companies and arrange for a personal visit from a representative. Make sure that all members of the family can be present for the meeting, since all members of the family will be affected by the alarm system. Compare the offers of each company carefully before making a final decision.

It is important to take these steps to ensure that you are dealing with a quality, reliable home alarm monitoring system. After all, the alarm system is only a good as the company standing behind it.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Tips for Troubleshooting Your Water Heater

A hot water heater is one of the most important appliances in any home, but no one seems to take much notice of it until something goes wrong. Not having hot water is no fun, no matter what the reason, and foul smelling, bad tasting or discolored water is no picnic either. It is a good idea for every homeowner to know how to troubleshoot and resolve common problems with this important piece of equipment.

Tips for troubleshooting hot water heater problems:

1. First, be sure that the circuit breaker has not tripped. If you have an electric hot water heater and are not getting any water to the unit, first check to make sure it is getting electricity. If the circuit breaker is fine, press the reset button on the thermostat. This reset button should be located just inside the access panel.

2. If the water is discolored, the culprit may be a buildup of sediments and salts. This may also be the problem if the water takes a long time to replenish. If a buildup of sediments is the problem you will have to drain the tank completely, then flush it out thoroughly with clean, clear water.

3. If the plumbing is noisy, be sure to check the temperature setting on the water heater. The noise may be coming from the buildup of steam in the pipes due to the temperature being set too high.

4. Be sure you are not running too many appliances that use hot water at one time. For instance, running the dishwasher and washing machine at the same time can leave no hot water for your shower.

5. Check for the smell of sulfur in the water. If the water smells like sulfur it could indicate a problem with bacteria. If this is the problem all that may be needed to control the bacteria is a good dose of chlorine.

6. Check the temperature of the water when the tank is full. Run hot water from the tap over a thermometer and check the temperature. The reading should be within five degrees of the setting on the hot water heater. If you see a larger discrepancy, replace the thermostat on the unit.

Keeping your hot water heating trouble free and in tip top shape does take a bit of work, but you will be happy you took the time the next time you climb in the shower and enjoy a long, relaxing, and most importantly, hot shower.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Tips for Buying Electrical Fixtures

Choosing the right lighting and electrical fixtures is a great way to make your new home your own, or to spruce up an existing home during a remodel. It is important to choose the fixtures that best reflect your taste and personal style, and to follow the tips listed below.

Tips for choosing the right electrical and light fixtures:

Ø Make a shopping list before you go. Be sure you have a good idea of what you need before you get to the store.

Ø Measure the space available for each fixture

Ø Think about the areas where you would like to have recessed lighting. Your electrician can supply these lights.

Ø Walk around each area of the home and consider the lighting options. Think about things like extra light for certain areas, or softer lights in other areas. You may want to think about installing dimmer switches in some areas.

Ø Look at your home and think about places you may want to add lighting. For instance, would you like to add lighting under the cabinets, or add an outside spotlight?

Ø Visit several electrical supply stores, home improvement warehouse centers and hardware stores. Get an idea of prices and available styles.

Ø Select the fixtures you want for each area of the home.

Ø Think about the size and design of each of the fixtures, considering where it is to go. Will the fixture fit perfectly, or will it be too high or too low?

Ø Review the choices you have made and look for any problems. Look for fixtures that are too large, or fixtures that may require special bulbs that may be hard to find or very expensive. Consider the placement of the fixture, remembering that you will have to change the bulbs from time to time.

Ø If you have any doubts about the suitability of a particular fixture, be sure to consult with an electrician.

Ø When buying fixtures, think about buying a couple of extra bulbs, especially if the fixture takes odd sized bulbs that may not be available everywhere.

Ø Ask about energy efficient lighting fixtures and energy saving bulbs. Some compact fluorescent and LED bulbs can last for years, making them a great choice for hard to reach lighting fixtures.

Ø Consider practical matters, like how easy the fixture is to clean, as well as the beauty of the fixture. It is true you will be admiring the fixtures you choose, but it is also true that you will be cleaning them.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Understanding Self-Cleaning Windows

The concept of self-cleaning windows is certainly an attractive one, and it is easy to understand why this new innovation has attracted so much attention. If there is one chore that homeowners could eliminate from their lives, cleaning the windows would probably be at the top of most lists. The good news is that there is a new kind of glass on the market that can actually break down dirt, reducing the appearance of those troublesome spots and streaks, all with very little cleaning required.

It is important to take the following things into consideration when determining if self-cleaning windows are the right choice for you.

1. Make sure that self-cleaning windows are appropriate and will work for your climate. Self-cleaning windows will work better in humid regions than in dry places, since they require some water in order to wash away the dirt that is broken down.

2. Have an understanding of the chemical nature of the glass. The ultraviolet rays of the sun will activate a transparent, durable coating of titanium oxide which is chemically fused on to the glass. Even when the weather is cloudy, the action of the photo-catalytic chemicals will oxidize dirt and prevent it from sticking to the surface.

3. Normal panes of glass are water repellent. Water will slide down, leaving streaks of dirt and grime behind as the remaining water dries. Self-cleaning glass, on the other hand, is hydrophilic. This means that it forces the water to spread evenly in a single sheet, thus washing away the dirt that has been loosened by the chemicals contained in the glass. This sheeting action lets the window dry fast, with virtually no spotting or streaking.

4. Be sure to research various kinds of self-cleaning glass at home improvement stores, glass contractors and on the internet. There are two major manufacturers offering self-cleaning glass – Pilkington North America and PPG Industries.

5. Be sure to do a benefit analysis to determine if self-cleaning windows are worth the expense. Windows that use self-cleaning glass technology are typically between 10 and 20% more expensive than ordinary windows. You may want to install self-cleaning windows only in those areas of the home that are hard to reach.

6. Plan the installation of the self-cleaning windows carefully. The building of a new home is a good time to purchase self-cleaning windows, as is a major upgrade.

7. Think about combining your new self-cleaning windows with insulating glass in order to save on energy costs as well.

8. During droughts and extended dry spells, it is a good idea to spray the windows lightly with a garden hose. Self-cleaning windows need moisture in order to effectively remove dirt and grime.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Tips for Safe and Secure Doors and Windows

Locks for the windows and doors are the most basic of all home security equipment. Good quality locks will help to deter break-ins, and while it is true that a determined burglar can foil many locks, most burglars are simply looking for the easiest target. You can therefore greatly reduce your chances of becoming a victim by installing the right locks.

There are a number of excellent tips for selecting the best locks for your doors and windows, and some of the best are listed below.

Ø Ask your local police department to conduct a home security audit on your home, or ask a local locksmith to look at your home and make recommendations.

Ø Replace the typical hollow-core entry doors that probably came with your home with a solid hardwood door at least 1 3/4 inches thick, or choose insulated fiberglass or steel clad doors. Be sure that the door frame does not have any gaps that would be wide enough to fit a pry bar into.

Ø When installing exterior doors, place the hinges on the inside. A burglar can easily pop out an exterior hinge and remove the door, hinges and all.

Ø Instead of a keychain, install a 180 degree view peephole. Door chains are easy to break, but a peephole lets you see who is at the door before you open it.

Ø Think about upgrading your key-in-knob door locks with ones that use dead bolts or hardened steel pins. If you want the convenience of a key-in lock, put the deadbolt above it.

Ø Buy grade 1 or 2 deadbolt locks that are able to withstand prying, wrenching, hammering, kicking and drilling. If the door has a glass panel, or if it is close to a window, install a double cylinder deadbolt so that the burglar cannot break the glass to unlock the door. Keep a key handy for emergencies, but do not leave it in the lock.

Ø Look for deadbolt locks which have a steel bolt with a one inch throw. Also look for strike plates that are secured with two and a half to three inch long screws, free spinning cylinders of solid metal and five or six pin screws.

Ø Secure double-hung windows with nails or bolts. Drill a hole through both sashes of the window at a downward angle to prevent thieves from working the pin loose.

Ø Install retractable window grates for all basement and ground floor windows.

Ø Stop sliding doors from being removed from their tracks through the use of vertical bolts or plates placed between the doors and the top tracks.