Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Cool products I think you should know about...

Here is a list of some cool and interesting products I have run across recently.  Most of these have been suggested to me by one of my students.  If you know of any products that would be interesting to other Do It Yourselfers, please post in the comment section.

Look for them on-line or at your local hardware store.  They are not related in any way just a random list.

Mirror Mates -  A simple way to give your unframed mirror a whole new look.  No tools required!
http://www.mirrormate.com/  

Fit Rite Back Flow Covers - perfect for protecting your sprinkler systems back flow preventer from freezing.  http://www.fitritebackflowcovers.com/specs.html




Vinyl Wall Decals - these can be found at a number of places just put vinyl wall decals in google and see what you find.





 

Shark Bite Connectors - perfect for Do It Yourself plumbing repairs.  No soldering required!  Just be sure you buy the tool to disconnect them, they are sold separately.
http://www.sharkbite.com/

Cool products I think you should know about...

Here is a list of some cool and interesting products I have run across recently.  Most of these have been suggested to me by one of my students.  If you know of any products that would be interesting to other Do It Yourselfers, please post in the comment section.

Look for them on-line or at your local hardware store.  They are not related in any way just a random list.

Mirror Mates -  A simple way to give your unframed mirror a whole new look.  No tools required!
http://www.mirrormate.com/  

Fit Rite Back Flow Covers - perfect for protecting your sprinkler systems back flow preventer from freezing.  http://www.fitritebackflowcovers.com/specs.html




Vinyl Wall Decals - these can be found at a number of places just put vinyl wall decals in google and see what you find.





 

Shark Bite Connectors - perfect for Do It Yourself plumbing repairs.  No soldering required!  Just be sure you buy the tool to disconnect them, they are sold separately.
http://www.sharkbite.com/

Monday, March 22, 2010

How to start up your sprinkler system

It is a good idea not to turn on your system until the last possibility of hard frost is over.  This date is normally May 1st in the Denver Metro area.  However, if you decide to turn it on before then be sure you take the extra step to protect your back flow device with some type of insulation just in case. Check out this cool product I just found to protect your back flow device http://www.fitritebackflowcovers.com/index.html
Steps to turning on your system.  Refer to the picture below for a graphic representation of these steps.
  1. Starting with your back flow device (or system) close all of the valves EXCEPT the shut-off valves located at the inlet and outlet of your back flow device. 
  2. Tighten drain cap located on the back flow system.
  3. Turn on the main shut-off valve located at the connection to the main water line.
  4. Listen for running water!  This will indicate you missed a valve!
  5. Test each zone individually by manually turning on one zone valve at a time and testing that zone.
  6. Adjust, clean or repair sprinkler heads as needed.  Be sure to turn off the water to the zone before removing the sprinkler head or making any repairs.
  7. Make all required adjustments to your controller.
 

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Cordless Power Tools - Important Safety Information

The following image was provided to me by one of my students who attended my Basic Power Tool Class .  Please read this important information if you own any type of cordless power tools.  Your instruction manual may not specifically caution you against storing your cordless tools with the batteries installed.

Just to be safe I strongly recommend you follow the advice given in this notice and remove the batteries in your tools before storing them away.



Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Decision to Become Handy

Hello Folks:

I'm very excited to put an effort into a blog. I am a writer by passion (and degree) and knew I had to write down this journey, but I didn't know where. Thanks to Judy Browne for the invitation to blog here!


The idea to become handy came around New Year's Eve. While everyone else was making resolutions about weight loss, smoking and not flipping folks the bird on the expressway, I was busy making a bucket list. It's amazing the lack of commitment you discover when you try to make a "to-do before you die" list. I was hesitant to put down things like "learn a new language" because the program I wanted, The Rosetta Stone Series, costs hundreds of dollars and would take time to learn. Visit the Pyramids...that was just a money issue. I reflected on how long my home repair list was growing. This list resides in the kitchen for ...well for the magical handyman who was going to show up on my front porch one day.

I thought about the light switch in the bedroom that works 30% of the time, the sewage backing up into the dishwasher that I paid a down-on-his-luck repairman $130 to fix (he returned 9 months later, asking for more money to complete the job). I thought about the boarded up hole in the front of my house where the previous residents decided to put the swamp cooler. I thought about the hundreds of dollars we paid to each of the half a dozen furnace repairmen before we had to bite the bullet and buy a new furnace (on which I'm still making payments at 9%). I decided I would learn to be handy. I researched it online and found www.womensworkshop.com. I was elated. A woman teaching other women how to be handy! I decided come hell or high water I would start taking classes. I had to dip into my savings, but I paid for "Power Tools" and "Basic Carpentry" the first week of March 2010.

Now the excitement grew. I would lie awake in bed with lists of questions. I've had "monkey chatter" for the last decade now. My husband falls asleep within seconds of going horizontal. I lie awake with thoughts like...I think I put one of my own books in the return slot at the library... I'll have to call them and let them know...I need to buy a bag of potatoes so I can make stew in the crock pot this weekend...I think I saw them on sale...79 cents for a 10lb bag...was it in the Safeway ad?...or was the King Soopers? No, it was that Mexican grocery store I'm too afraid to go in because they asked for a permit to kill live chickens...

and so it goes. This "monkey chatter" doesn't quiet down on its own. I just fall asleep from exhaustion. It was during one of these chatter nights that I thought about the classes for which I had just signed up. I had read the instructions and frequently asked questions over and over. I knew not to wear dangling, expensive jewelry. I didn't have to worry about needing to tie my hair back because I'd just had 6 inches cut the month prior. Should I bring gloves, my own safety glasses? That expensive tool belt collecting dust in the garage that we bought for my husband that he never laid a finger on? Should I put soap under my fingernails before class so they don't get dirt underneath them? Did I need to take the "Home Maintenance" class as a precursor to all the other classes? Should I just jump into the electrical class? I kept updates on my excitement on my Facebook page. 7 Days until my Power Tools class, 6 days until Carpentry, and so on.

I told my husband that from now on the garage would be my domain. In the garage hangs a metal sign that reads "A man's garage is his castle." I informed Jason that if the tools are in the garage, then i.e....therefor... thus...the garage would have to be mine by default. The garage is just bare studs and daisy chained-electricity from the house. There is no insulation, no drywall and nowhere to put the second car it's supposed to hold. He had the last 3 years to fix it up. He had plenty of time to be handy. Hell, he had all his life to be handy, but alas, like many men my husband's age, he is a child of the Nintendo generation. While he was sitting on the couch building up his "Nintendo Thumb" (a callous on the thumb of a gamer that he exhibits with pride to this day), his father and grandfather were working in the garage or mowing the lawn (another skill in which he does not excel). If there had been a video game called "Extreme Handyman" we wouldn't be in this mess. However, our home of 3 years was built in 1952 and one of us has to be handy. I decided it was going to be me.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

A simple DIY way to save water

If you're looking to save some water this is a simple thing you can easily do yourself with a little courage and money.
Install a dual flush conversion kit into your existing toilets!  For as little as $25 and about an hour of your time you can save water with every flush.
For those of you unfamiliar with the dual flush system it's really pretty simple.  Flushing liquid waste requires less water than solid waste to do it's job so why not have a simple way to accomplish that each time you flush?

We purchased 2 different kinds.  One simply replaces the existing flapper and handle in your toilet.  The other, more expensive, requires you to remove the tank and replace the entire flush valve (overflow tube and flapper assembly).  You can make adjustments to the amount of water required to flush liquid waste until it flushes toilet paper with ease.  A full flush is used for solid waste.

I did some quick calculations with our toilet.
4 gallons = full flush (solid waste)
1.5 gallons =  small flush (with dual flush kit installed)
2.5 gallons = saved for liquid waste flush per toilet used.
$0.19 per cubic ft = cost of water (approximate)
912.5 gallons = yearly savings per toilet
$23 = yearly savings per toilet

So in our house we save, conservatively, $46 a year and 1,800 gallons of water each year.  Not bad for an hour of my time.

Here are some products:
 

A simple DIY way to save water

If you're looking to save some water this is a simple thing you can easily do yourself with a little courage and money.
Install a dual flush conversion kit into your existing toilets!  For as little as $25 and about an hour of your time you can save water with every flush.
For those of you unfamiliar with the dual flush system it's really pretty simple.  Flushing liquid waste requires less water than solid waste to do it's job so why not have a simple way to accomplish that each time you flush?

We purchased 2 different kinds.  One simply replaces the existing flapper and handle in your toilet.  The other, more expensive, requires you to remove the tank and replace the entire flush valve (overflow tube and flapper assembly).  You can make adjustments to the amount of water required to flush liquid waste until it flushes toilet paper with ease.  A full flush is used for solid waste.

I did some quick calculations with our toilet.
4 gallons = full flush (solid waste)
1.5 gallons =  small flush (with dual flush kit installed)
2.5 gallons = saved for liquid waste flush per toilet used.
$0.19 per cubic ft = cost of water (approximate)
912.5 gallons = yearly savings per toilet
$23 = yearly savings per toilet

So in our house we save, conservatively, $46 a year and 1,800 gallons of water each year.  Not bad for an hour of my time.

Here are some products:
 

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Even Boulder has a hard time going green

Great article in the Wall Street Journal about the difficulty encountered in trying to 'make' people do things to meet a 'green' agenda.  It just isn't as simple or practical as some would have you believe.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB20001424052748704320104575015920992845334.html

It's a amazing to me that they are willing to spend tax dollars on forcing people to save energy when we have so many other things that need our attention right now.

What I took away from the article, and is in fact how I believe most of us live, is that we all have different priorities and those priorities rarely fall in line with the priorities of single minded individuals, government entities and other policy makers. It's easy to focus just on saving energy while ignoring all the other factors that we need to take into account when we are making decisions for ourselves, our families and our businesses.  It's always a cost benefit analysis and every individual is going to calculate cost in a different way.  It may be money, it may be values, it may be time.  It's never as simple as people want to believe.  For example,  It's more important for the art gallery owner to make his clients feel welcome and encourage people into his business than it is to save a few dollars and some energy.

I work to make my home more energy efficient but I only do what I can afford.  I won't install a CFL in my home until I am forced into it and I hope for an alternative before that happens.  We are installing dual flush adapters into our toilets but I'm not sure it will make that big of a difference and I'm not ready to recommend that others do the same until I am sure. We have insulated our attic but cannot afford to insulate our exterior walls at this time. 

Monday, March 1, 2010

Important Lead Paint Info for Homeowners and Do It Yourselfers!

Most of you may be aware of the issues surrounding lead based paint in homes.  If you are a homeowner one of the many papers you signed during the home buying process addressed the issue of the possibility of lead based paint in homes built prior to 1978.  In fact, you signed a lead based paint disclosure even if your home was built after that time.

What many of you may not know is that the EPA has issued a new regulation regarding lead based paint and Residential Property Renovations.  Under the new regulation, beginning in April 2010, contractors performing renovation, repair and painting projects that disturb lead-based paint in homes built before 1978 must be certified and MUST follow specific work practices to prevent lead contamination.

Some facts about lead:

  • Lead can affect children’s brains and developing nervous systems, causing reduced IQ, learning disabilities, and behavior problems.  It is especially dangerous to children under the age of 6 but can be harmful to adults, too.
  • Lead in dust is the most common way people are exposed to lead and is often invisible. 
  • Lead-based paint was used in almost 38 million homes until is was banned for residential use in 1978
  • Projects that disturb lead-based paint can create dust.

How does this new regulation affect you?   
  • First and foremost it will be up to you as a homeowner, when hiring a contractor, to ask to see the contractors certification and find out what they will be doing to protect you and your family from exposure to potential lead contamination.
  • For anyone with a home built before 1978 this regulation will almost certainly lead to higher prices for any renovations you may need.  This regulation affects ALL contractors including plumbers, electricians, handymen and women, carpenters and painters.  It is possible that a simple plumbing repair that requires the plumber to cut into your walls may require them to work under these special regulations.
  • As a homeowner if you plan to do renovation projects yourself you are not required to follow these procedures however, I strongly recommend you consider offering your family the same protection from lead contamination as the contractors you hire to work in your home.  Ultimately your family's safety is your responsibility.
Where can you get more information? 
 

Please take the time to visit these links.
Lead Paint Test Kits

At your local Ace Hardware

Ace Hardware
On- Line








How radon is mitigated or reduced? Post 7 of 7

There are several methods that a contractor can use to lower the radon levels in your home.  Some techniques prevent radon from entering your home with others reduce the level after it has entered.  They type of radon reduction system that will work best for your home will depend on the foundation design of your home. (i.e. basement, slab-on-grade, crawlspace).

In houses with basement or slab-on-grade foundations, radon is usually reduced by one of four types of soil suction: subslab suction, drain tile suction, sump hole suction, or block wall suction.

The most common and usually the most reliable is the subslab suction technique.  Basically suction pipes are inserted through the floor slab into the soil underneath.  A radon vent fan connected to the suction pipe draws the radon gas from below the house and releases it into the outdoor air while creating a vacuum beneath the slab.  For a more detailed description of this an the other types of radon reduction techniques I recommend you download the EPA’s “Consumer’s Guide to Radon Reduction” www.epa.gov/radon/pubs/consguid.html

All radon reduction techniques typically include sealing cracks and other openings in the foundation.  Sealing cracks helps limit the flow of radon into the home thereby improving the effectiveness of the other systems in place.  Please note that the EPA does not recommend the use of sealing alone to reduce radon. Tests have shown this is not an effective way to reduce radon levels consistently.

You can help in the reduction of radon levels in your home by opening windows, doors and vents on the lower floors in your home.  This mixes the outdoor and indoor air together effectively reducing radon levels in the home.  This should be regarded only as a temporary radon reduction technique as radon levels will return to the previous levels when the doors and windows are closed not to mention the increased cost of re-conditioning the air.


Where to get more information about radon.

US Environmental Protection Agency www.epa.gov/radon
Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment www.coloradoradon.info
Center for Environmental Research and Technology Inc.  www.certi.us
National Cancer Institute www.cancer.gov
American Journal of Epidemiology http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/reprint/151/11/1091.pdf