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7/27/2016


Photo by Pexels

A door is the first thing guests see when they enter your home. As a result, they can leave an elegant, lasting impression, especially on older, historical houses. Some are made of beautiful wood. Others have small but amazing details. Whatever their form, doors show off the personality of a home.

Unfortunately, they are also susceptible to the elements, year after year. If your house is aging, your door is aging even faster. It could have flaking paint or wood. The wood could be thinning out, making the entrance area draftier. What's worse, it could even have rot from insect or water damage.

Taking the time to restore your old door is worth it. You'll finish with a fine piece of craftsmanship to call your own that everyone will see the minute they walk up to your house. Let's get started.

Difficulty: Easy/moderate

Time: Three days — overnight drying is required

Cost: Around $50

Remove Hardware

The first thing to do is prepare the door for restoring. This means you need to take off all the hardware — the hinges, the doorknob, the doorstop and any glass. Place the door on padded sawhorses in order to properly take off the hardware.

Strip Paint

Is your door painted? A painted door cannot be repaired until you strip off the old coat — you won't be able to sand it.

You should strip the paint outdoors, as this step can get messy and dangerous without proper ventilation. Make sure you have enough ventilation if you're working indoors.

Keep the door on the sawhorses, but put down some old shirts or cloths to catch stray paint drops. Apply a low-VOC paint stripper to the door, carefully following the directions on the can. Let it set in for the time specified on the can.

Start scraping off the paint using a wide putty knife. While this will remove most of the old paint, you'll need a high-quality paint scraper to finish the job. For flat surfaces, wider scrapers are better. For the tight corners, pointed scrapers work best.

The paint stripper should then be neutralized with a liquid specified on the can so that it doesn't damaged the exposed wood.


Photo by Pixabay

Sand Flats Down to Bare Wood

Get rid of the remaining varnish and paint flakes by using 80-grit sandpaper on a random-orbit sander. Sand the entire door again, first with 100-grit paper and then 120-grit paper. Don't go any further, though — finer sandpaper will close the wood's pores. This means that when you go to finish the door, the finish won't adhere to it.

Sanding these areas also works for rotted and damaged wood. All you need to do is sand it down and fill it with a polyester of epoxy resin filler. Then sand it smooth again.

Scrape and Sand Moldings and Profiles

Using a sharp, pointed scraper, reach into the corners and profiles of the door to get down to the bare wood.

Once that's done, take a sheet of 100-grit paper and fold it into thirds. Sand the profiles in long strokes across the door, back and forth. In the places where your fingers can't reach, use a sanding sponge. Then, brush and vacuum your work to get rid of any dust that could affect the finish.

Apply Finish

The first place you should apply finish is on the bottom and top edges of the door — one coat is enough. Then, re-hang the door before applying finish to the whole thing. If you skip this step, you run the risk of damaging the finish when you re-hang!

Pour your finish in a bucket and dip a new China-bristle brush lightly into the finish. Begin with the door panels, then move to the moldings and profiles. Finally, coat the rails and stiles. If any finish accidentally hits a dry surface, use a rag to wipe it off right away. Leave the door to dry overnight.

Apply New Paint

Once you've finished the door, sand it smooth. Start with 120-grit sandpaper and end with 220-grit. Use a brush and then a soft cloth to wipe away dust.

Next, apply a coat of primer and let it dry. Sand the dried surface with 220-grit. Remove the dust again using the same method.

Using a two-inch-wide brush made for enamel paint, apply your enamel top coat and let dry. We recommend using a low-VOC exterior paint, such as Benjamin Moore Aura Grand Entrance.

Reattach Hardware

Your masterpiece is complete! Just reattach the hardware and it'll look picture-perfect. If the door (or your house) has some history, choosing period-specific hardware instead of the old, beat-up hardware will add great historical charm.


Megan Wild is a gardener who is the process of cultivating her first succulent garden. She loves visiting local floral nurseries and picking out plants that she struggles to fit into her yard. Find her tweeting home and garden inspiration@Megan_Wild.




7/5/2016


Photo by Fotolia

Instead of throwing used wood pallets and old tires away, repurpose them to make a comfortable and beautiful seating area where you can enjoy yourself the whole summer. Of course, you can always buy a new bench or an outdoor sofa, but that will cost both you and Mother Earth. Recycling the clutter sitting in your backyard is much more fun, creative, cost-effective, and environmentally friendly. Here are three easy projects to try:

Wood Pallet Sofa

When it comes to making things with pallets, the options are practically endless. They can be used to make anything from a dining table to a swing chair. Regardless of the form, this kind of furniture is very decorative, and lends rustic yet modern feel to your outdoor space. To make a wood pallet sofa, you will need 3 pallets, some screws, a nail gun and drill, and seat cushions. One pallet will be used for the seating structure, and one for the back support. Make sure they are the same length. Lay one pallet on the ground, and put the other on top so that edges and corners are aligned. Drill through solid parts of both pallets and attach them with 2-inch deck screws. Unnail the planks from the third pallet and use them to fill in the gaps on your sofa. Attach them with the nail gun. Sand all surfaces. Finnish it off with colourful cushions, made from the decorative outdoor fabric and throw some pillows. If you prefer, add ropes to the sides and hang the sofa to transform it into a swing chair.

2. Cinder Block Bench

On their own, cinder blocks are a pretty ugly and uninspiring building material. But with some creativity, you can put them to good use and make a very stylish bench. You will need 18 cinder blocks, all-purpose construction glue, paint, and three 4x4 wooden beams. First, paint the cinder blocks into any shade you like. You can even use a couple of different shades. Give them a few hours to dry. In the meantime, cut the beams to the desired length, sand and varnish them. Once the paint has dried, arrange the cinder blocks into a 3 by 3 form, and glue them together. Repeat it with the remaining 9 blocks. The block assemblies should be placed apart so that they can support the 4x4s on both ends. Now, put the beams’ ends into the holes on the blocks, and voila! Your bench is done. You can adjust the height of the bench by moving the beams from the top row of blocks to the middle. For enhanced comfort, put seating cushions on top. Put the bench against a wall, add some pillows, and you get a sofa. Pretty cool, right?

Tire Stool Chair

Old tires usually sit around in the garage for years, collecting dust, before we finally decide to throw them out. Even though it may not seem like it, they can actually be repurposed and transformed into chic stool chairs, which are excellent for decks or around fire pits. All you need to do is cut a round board from plywood for the bottom of the chair and make a cushioned centre. Take that old tire, splash some paint on it, place the round board into the centre, and add the cushioning on top of the board. These low stools have a hippie appeal. If you want the stools to be a bit higher for practical reasons, stack another tire on top and make a bigger seating cushion. Do them in multiple colours for a funky touch.


Zoe Clark is an environmentalist, home decorator and DIY enthusiast. She is a visual storyteller and aesthetician at heart who often writes about decorating and DIY ideas. She loves sparking creativity in people and giving them ideas for their own spaces.



6/23/2016


Photo by Fotolia

The world’s natural environment is constantly deteriorating, from organisms to plants and forests. An overabundance of toxic waste products and unsustainable rates of resources consumption are likely to blame, but you can help to alleviate the effects of humanity on nature by developing a more eco-friendly lifestyle and home. In the case of your kitchen in particular, here are five changes you can make.

Kitchen Appliances

When you see the term “eco-friendly,” think about it in two ways: ecologically friendly and economically friendly. One needn’t look further than kitchen appliances to be convinced. For example, dishwashers built prior to 1994 waste more than 10 gallons of water per cycle. Meanwhile, a newer, energy-efficient dishwasher will save about 1,600 gallons of water over its lifetime. This adds up to an average economic savings of about $110 per year. Visit a site like Budget Restaurant Supply and upgrade your appliances to more efficient models.                                                

Lighting

You may have heard about LED and CFL light bulbs. In the past decade alone, they’ve made quite a buzz for the amount of energy and money they save. For example, a pack of eight 13-watt CFL light bulbs from GE will run you about $14. However, these light bulbs have a lifespan of 8,000 hours, which lasts an estimated five years.

Composting

Compost is the natural breakdown of organic materials into a rich, fertile soil. So then if you’re not a gardener, why does it matter? Because many agricultural practices have led to soil erosion and land degradation. As Washington State University puts it, “While it takes thousands of years for the earth’s forces to build good soil, we can help do this in 5–10 years by adding compost—which adds microorganisms, arthropods, worms, and humus to the soil.” Make a compost bin for your kitchen’s scraps. That way, your vegetable peels and fish bones can go to use.

Cleaning Products

When we think of eco-friendly cleaning products, we generally confine the conversation to switching from toxic, chemical-laden products to more natural ones such as Simple Green. While this is generally good advice, the fight for a cleaner earth extends far beyond that. For example, did you know that many companies now produce recycled paper towels? If every household in the U.S. replaced just one 6-pack of 140 sheet virgin paper towels with their recycled ones, the world could save more than 2,200,000 trees and over 780 million gallons of water.

Switch to a Low-Pressure Faucet

You’ve heard of low-pressure showerheads before, but did you know that there are low-pressure kitchen faucets, too? The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that replacing your outdated faucets with new, energy-efficient models can reduce your yearly water usage by as much as 60 percent.

As the most advanced species on this planet, it is our responsibility to ensure that we look after the environment and all the other organisms that we share it with. Do what you can to make your kitchen more energy efficient, and you’ll enjoy both cheaper electricity and water bills and a healthier world.



6/23/2016


Photo by Fotolia

Insulating your home is a vital part of your quest for energy efficiency. While you can definitely invest in a programmable thermostat, robust metal roofing, and energy efficient windows, making sure that your home is insulated can keep your house cool in summer and warm in winter without any major renovations. According to Energy.gov, “Insulation in your home provides resistance to heat flow. The more heat flow resistance your insulation provides, the lower your heating and cooling costs. Properly insulating your home not only reduces heating and cooling costs, but also improves comfort.” It can reduce half of your heating and cooling energy and effectively patch up that leaky hole in your wallet.

Tip #1: Get Expert Insights from a Certified Energy Auditor

As much as we try to be home energy efficiency gurus, there are just certain things you can’t see with your naked eye. An energy auditor not only examines your house room-by-room, but also evaluates those hard-to-get-to places (like under the deck) to give you a comprehensive evaluation.

Furthermore, an energy auditor has professional tools such as a thermograph, which is an infrared scanning device used to detect thermal defects and air leakage in building envelopes. As Energy.gov points out, an energy assessment takes the guesswork out of your hand and replaces it with practical feedback to help you save as much as 30% in energy bills.

Tip #2: Affordable DIY Seal Up

Doors and windows may serve as a great entry point as far as sunlight and fresh air are concerned. However, improper house sealing can cause your cool air to leak out of the house, making your AC to work harder than ever. Once you test your windows and doors for air tightness, you can caulk and weather-strip leaky doors and windows. To make sure that your new caulking will be effective, it’s important to apply a caulk softener to your old caulking 2 hours before its removal to prevent any damage to your foundation and ensure the new caulk adheres.

DIY Network recommends homeowners to caulk at a 45-degree angle, smooth out the calk with a wet finger, and give it 12 to 15 hours to dry. According to House Logic, caulking is a great way to seal up openings that are less than 1/4-inch wide, saving roughly a third of your family’s annual heating and cooling budget

Tip #3: Work on the Walls

Insulating the walls around your house is all about making your living space more comfortable and economical year-round. The process is not that daunting either. All you need is a utility knife, a straightedge, and a little patience.

When choosing your insulation materials, Energy.gov suggests homeowners to use foam sheathing rather than wood sheathing products. This is because foam sheathing provides “a continuous layer of insulation, which reduces thermal bridging through wood studs, saving energy and improving comfort.”

Insulate Your Home Inside & Out

Insulation is a top to bottom, inside and out job. From your attic to your crawl space, and from the walls to the basement, there are always ways to close the gaps and avoid unwanted air infiltration and leakage. As a general tip, start with the easy, accessible areas of your house and work your way up to a more complex insulation project.


Paul Kazlov is a “green” home remodeling enthusiast and an industry pioneer for innovation in home renovation. Paul writes for the Global Home Improvement blog and strives to educate people about “green” products such as metal roofing and solar. Follow him on Twitter @PaulKazlov.



6/9/2016

While refined white sugar isn’t the healthiest ingredient to include in our food, it’s still a staple in many pantries. Whether you’re looking to rid your home of refined sugar without wasting your supply, or just looking for simple ways to use it around the house, try these handy ways to use sugar outside of food. 

1. Naturally exfoliate skin

sugar scrub 

Sugar is naturally abrasive, making it a good substitute for conventional exfoliating scrubs, many of which use tiny beads of nonbiodegradable plastic that cause major problems for aquatic life. A basic homemade sugar scrub is simply one part sugar and one part oil, such as jojoba, almond or olive oil. To make a fancier homemade sugar scrub, consult the these recipes.

2. Clean your coffee grinder

Coffee and spice grinders pick up oil and dirt that can be difficult to clean with soap and water. Fortunately, an electric grinder can be easily cleaned by running 1⁄3 to 1⁄2 cup of sugar through it. In addition to cleaning the machine, the sugar will also absorb odors.

3. Scrub your hands

Sugar helps remove dirt, grease and oil like a champ. Try rubbing dirty hands with equal parts olive oil and sugar, then rinsing.

4. Sustain a bouquet

Preserve the life of freshly cut flowers by sprinkling a tablespoon of sugar into the vase water. Sugar provides nourishment for the flowers, helping them live longer. Note, however, that sugar also provides food for bacteria. To prevent bacterial growth in your vase, add a tablespoon of vinegar to the mix.

5. Heal wounds

In a study at an English hospital, sprinkling sugar on bed sores, leg ulcers and amputations helped heal injuries that were unresponsive to conventional treatments. Sugar draws water from wounds, helping prevent infection. Always consult a physician when treating these serious conditions.

6. Store baked goods

sugar 

Keep biscuits, cake or other baked goods fresh by placing a lump of sugar in the bottom of the storage container. The sugar will absorb moisture in the container, helping keep goodies fresh longer.

7. Naturally trap pests

Fruit flies are attracted to sweet things, so set out a lure of simple syrup, which is made by boiling sugar and water together. This will trap and drown the insects. Make a homemade fly trap by boiling sugar, honey and water in equal proportions, stirring occasionally until thickened. Dip pieces of brown packaging paper in the mixture, the hang them to dry with a drip pan underneath. For roaches, mix equal parts sugar and baking powder, then sprinkle over infested areas. To make traps for other insects, visit motherearthliving.com/fruit-fly-trap.

8. Feed hummingbirds

hummingbird 

Hummingbirds thrive on flower nectar, which can be mimicked by mixing one part sugar to four parts water. Add it to a hummingbird feeder and wait for your winged visitors to arrive. Want to make your own hummingbird feeder? Find out how at motherearthnews.com/DIY-hummingbird-feeder.



6/9/2016


Photo by Fotolia

Updating your home is always exciting (and sometimes a little stressful). Whether you’re updating a room with some fresh paint and new décor, or taking on an entire renovation, there are several ways you can minimize your impact on the environment when decorating your home.

Thinking about the earth in everything we do is always important, so consider these tips when you’re planning that next big home improvement project:

1. Utilize Sustainable Materials

When selecting products for your home, you have a lot of options that are good for you and the earth. If it’s a simple redecoration project, you can choose curtains or throw pillows made with hemp, which is much more sustainable than cotton or wool. If you’re going for decorative pieces, consider items made from recycled glass or plastic, or even reclaimed wood.

If your project is bigger, you still have many sustainable materials to choose from. When it comes to furniture, cabinets or flooring, bamboo is one excellent sustainable choice. It’s one of the most sustainable hardwoods out there, maturing in 5-7 years and having less impact on the environment where it grows. Bamboo flooring is just as sustainable as it is strong: bamboo is as sturdy as steel, hardier than concrete, and  beautiful to boot.

There are also great choices available when it comes to countertops and sinks. Recycled glass comes in different colors and marbling styles, and can be made to look like natural stone, giving your home a refined look without using dwindling supplies of marble or granite. In the bathroom, tiles made with recycled glass or plastic are stylish and help keep bottles out of our landfills.

2. Nix The Chemicals

VOCs (volatile organic compounds) are found in many home improvement supplies, including paint and floor finishes. These carbon-based chemicals evaporate at moderate temperatures. Some VOCs have no odor at all, but each and every one is dangerous when inhaled.

VOCs have been linked to a number of health issues, including asthma, allergy symptoms, headaches and even vomiting. In the long-term, VOCs have been known to contribute to cancer, liver and kidney damage, and nervous system damage. These effects are stronger on babies, small children, pets, the elderly, and those with existing immune system or breathing issues.

If you have pets or small children in the house, it’s very important to make sure you minimize their exposure to VOCs. Luckily, there are a lot of low-VOC paint options available, as well as low-VOC flooring finishes.

3. Reach For The Stars

Energy Stars, that is. Many people are under the mistaken impression that Energy Star is a privately owned company that is paid to give endorsements or to work with certain brands. . Energy Star is actually the brainchild of the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and they use a set of rigorous standards to qualify appliances as energy efficient.

Minimizing our energy consumption is a good way for us to lessen our impact on the world around us. Energy Star ratings can play a huge part in this, especially since outfitting your home to utilize solar energy can be very expensive. If you’re in the market for new appliances, lighting fixtures, or even light bulbs, just taking a moment to look for the energy star sticker can make all the difference.

4. Find The Right Professional

If you are hiring a professional or utilizing a contractor, take some time to look into their business practices and philosophies. Sometimes you’re limited by local options, but if you have the ability to hire someone who shares similar views on the environment, it’s definitely worth the time it takes to find them and any extra money it may cost over that bargain-bin big name company.

Many contractors are now taking the time to recycle and reuse materials they remove from homes. If you purchase a new product and hire the same company to install it, try to find a company that is green. This can mean many things, but in the end, a factory that takes steps to decrease its carbon footprint is healthier for the environment, and probably makes some of the safest products you can use in your home.



4/18/2016


Photo by Fotolia

Improving your home’s sustainability can go a long way toward saving energy, lowering monthly bills, and helping the environment at the same time. There are many ways you can help increase your home’s green profile, and most of them won’t break the bank.

Thermostat Installation

Installing a new thermostat is a great way to reduce your energy usage and save money. Programmable thermostats allow you to control the temperature of your home whether you’re there or not. Some models even let you access the thermostat from your Smartphone. Replacing your thermostat this spring will help keep your home more comfortable this summer, while you save on those air conditioning bills.

Cost

The average cost of thermostat installation is between $200 and $250 for a digital thermostat.

Total costs range from $50 for a manual thermostat you install yourself to $700 for an electronic thermostat.

Tips to Get It Done Right

• Digital and electronic thermostats cost the most upfront, but will save you the most over time.

• Programmable thermostats come in different systems; check each one out first to make sure you get the right one for your needs.

DIY Considerations

Manual thermostats can usually be installed DIY, but digital and electronic thermostats may need an additional hub, as well as experience dealing with electricity, to do correctly.

Attic Insulation

Most homes today are under-insulated, meaning that they don’t have enough insulation for their needs. Adding attic insulation can help prevent your attic from becoming superheated in the summer, which in turn helps prevent roof damage, and keep that heat from transferring to the rooms below, raising your energy costs. Adding extra insulation this spring will help keep your whole house more comfortable year-round.

Cost

The cost to insulate an attic starts around $400 and can go as high as $1800, depending on the type of insulation being used.

Tips to Get It Done Right

• Insulate the underside of your roof deck as well as the attic floor to help stop heat transfer to and from your roof.

• Adjust your R-value to the climate you live in; moderate climates can use R-14, while harsher climates may need R-19 or higher.

DIY Considerations

It is possible to install roll insulation yourself. Just take care to protect your skin from the fiberglass, and not to step in areas where there are no floor joists below.

Tree Planting

Planting trees in your yard is another way to increase your home’s green status. Trees help prevent soil erosion, and increase shade around your house, helping lower summer energy bills. Spring is the ideal time to plant new trees while you spruce up landscaping after a long winter.

Cost

The average cost of tree planting is $106 per tree for five small trees delivered and planted.

Total costs range from $75 per tree for five small trees delivered, and planted DIY, to $2,423 per tree for five large trees delivered and planted professionally.

Tips to Get It Done Right

• Check with your local government to find out if there are free trees available to plant.

• Check with the utility company before planting trees that could interfere with power lines (if planted in the wrong spot, they may need to be removed later).

DIY Considerations

Trees can be planted DIY as long as you can dig a large enough hole. For larger trees, you may want to rent a mini-excavator to help do the job.

Install LED Lights

Switching out standard lights for LED fixtures can help lower energy bills each month. LED lights come in many of the same shades of white light we’re used to, requiring only a fraction of the electricity. Some LED bulbs can be used in standard fixtures, but switching to an LED fixture can make the change easier. Making the switch in spring is the perfect time to see the biggest changes in your electric bill for the coming year.

Cost

The cost of installing new LED fixtures in your home is around $600 for 6 recessed lights.

Total costs range from $250 for a DIY installation to $1000 for premium materials. LED lights average $15 to $25 for a 100 watt bulb, but use less power per unit of light generated, lowering bills. Labor for installation is typically $65 to $85 per hour, and it takes about one hour per recessed light to be installed without issue.

Tips to Get It Done Right

• Invest in fixtures that allow flexibility in the type of bulb you use, so you can vary the strength and type of light until you’re satisfied with the results.

• Spread lights out evenly across the room to ensure you get the best light.

DIY Considerations

This job requires a licensed, experienced electrician.

Water Filter Installation

Installing a water filter can be a smart move depending on your current water quality. There are many types of water filters, which can remove lead, bacteria, or minerals. Installing a filter can help you avoid bottled water, and help with issues such as pipe damage and health issues from the presence of nitrates or bacteria in your water. If you have a well, spring is the ideal time to get your water tested and a filter installed, as ground water can be impacted by melting snow.

Cost

The cost to install a water filter in your home is around $250 to $400 for a reverse osmosis system. Total costs range from $20 for a filtering pitcher to $3000 for a whole-house water softening system.

Tips to Get It Done Right

Have your water tested by a reliable private lab before purchasing. Filters come in all shapes, sizes, and styles; first learn what’s in your wáter, so you can select the right model for your home.

DIY Considerations

This job may or may not be suitable for DIY depending on the type of filter being used.

Improve Your Green Status this Spring

Spring is a great time to work on your home. While you’re making repairs, increase your green status at the same time to help save on your energy costs. To find out more about what these projects cost, be sure to visit Cost Guides.

Yuka Kato writes about home improvement tips & tricks to help homeowners learn more about improving their properties. She also delivers useful cost information you can use to help improve your own home at HowMuch.net.





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