Tips for Hanging Christmas Lights on Your House

tips-for-hanging-christmas-lights-on-your-houseWith the holiday season upon us, it is time to get your home ready to spread the cheer. One way to do this is by hanging Christmas lights up on the exterior of your home. However, before you get started, consider these tips that will make setting up more enjoyable and help ensure your home is considered a neighborhood showplace instead of an eyesore.

Make a Plan

Instead of grabbing a bunch of lights and “winging it” with your design, you need to come up with a plan. Consider the style of your home because you will want to avoid a garish design and go with one that compliments your house and landscape. For example, whether you have a one-story ranch or Victorian-style home, a classic look can be had by running string lights along the roofline and outlining other architectural features of your house.

If you have never decorated your home with lights before, consider how the other homes in your neighborhood are decorated for a general feel to avoid clashing styles, Be careful not steal someone else’s design. No one wants to be known as the “Griswold Family Christmas” house on the block either. If you belong to a homeowners’ association, be sure to stay within the guidelines for holiday decorations to avoid problems with your neighbors.

How Many Lights Do You Need?

Should you go with white or multicolored lights? Miniature or C9 light strings or icicles? There are so many types of lights in which to choose. Measure the length of where you are placing your lights to determine how many strands you will need. The most important thing is to make sure you have enough lights to achieve the look you are going for. With all the types of LED Christmas light now available, you can hang multiple sets of lights without having to worry about an extravagant electric bill come January.

An easy way to calculate how many string lights you will need for your trees or shrubs is to measure the height of the area you are decorating, divide by 1.5 and then multiply by 100. Using this formula, a 6-foot tree will need 400 lights. One of the easiest ways to decorate your shrubs is by using net lights.

Safety First!

You will need to have a suitable power source to supply power to your lights. It is best to use an outlet that is equipped with a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI). In the event of overcurrent, this type of outlet will shut the power down to prevent blown circuits or sparking wires. Be sure to use extension cords that are rated for outdoor use and tape them down securely if you must run them across walkways. Remember to turn your lights off when you are not home or installing a timer to turn them off at the end of the evening.

Before hanging your lights, make sure to inspect them for frayed wires, missing or damaged bulbs, and most importantly, plug them in to make sure they light up. Dispose of any damaged light sets to prevent a fire or shock hazard.

Once you are ready to hang your lights, make sure you are using a sturdy ladder. Only use insulated holders or clips made specifically for hanging lights. Never use nails, tacks, or staples. There is a variety of plastic light clips on the market for almost every type of light including rope lights, C9s, and miniatures that will not damage your home.

Once you are done, it is time to sit back and enjoy the show!

You Can Install Laminate Flooring!

Laminate flooring is a hard floor made with layers of several different materials, including wood, plastic, cardboard and glue squeezed together under pressure.  This process makes laminate floor very strong and durable.  Though it is a recent invention, laminate floor has become extremely popular because of its simple installation.  Laminate flooring is widely available all over the United States.  Most hardware stores and home centers carry a wide selection of laminate so you can get the look you want at the price that is right for you.  Just about any homeowner can install laminate floor using common tools.  If you are looking for a hard floor alternative to carpet, but you are not ready to commit to hardwood or stone, you should have laminate floor on your short list.

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Installing laminate is a simple procedure.  The first step is to remove the existing flooring.  Be sure to remove any glue, nails or staples protruding from the subfloor.  Once the floor is smooth, you will be ready to install the new floor.  Start by placing the substrate, which is usually a thin layer of plastic foam.  You can secure the substrate with a few pieces of tape at the edges and seams.

Pieces of laminate floor are designed to snap together like enormous puzzle pieces.  Because it is an artificially manufactured product, there are typically six or eight different patterns in a box of laminate floor.  Mixing the pieces will ensure that two pieces of the same pattern will not be too close together when the floor is finished.  Plans for this now, and your installation will go much more quickly.  Now, you can begin placing the pieces of laminate.

Start in a corner, by snapping a row of laminate; use a saw to cut the last piece to fit.  Leave a ¼-inch gap between the laminate and the wall to allow for expansion.  Now, you will place the next row; be sure to begin with a cut piece so that the joints will be staggered.  Once you have the entire floor in place, install the baseboard of your choice to cover the ¼-inch gap.

Laminate flooring allows you to get the look of traditional hardwood, tile or stone floor, but is much simpler to install.  Laminate flooring is available in just about any color and design that you can imagine.  If you are a do-it-yourselfer looking for a quick and easy way to dramatically change the look of your home, laminate flooring may be a great choice for you.

What Is Dry Rot and What Should I Do About It?

The first thing to remember when dealing with dry rot is that the name is misleading. Dry rot is not normal decomposition. It is decay caused by several species of fungi. The word dry is somewhat misleading as well, as fungi require moisture to do their dirty work. The wood can have the appearance of dryness, however, once the fungi have completely weakened the wood.

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Needless to say, this is an extremely dangerous condition. Anything that relies on the wood’s structural integrity is at risk of collapse. It is important that you know what to look for and what you can to do about it.

Identification. Dry rot begins simply, with the introduction of microscopic spores into the wood. Over time, they proliferate. You may begin to notice changes in the wood’s appearance. It may take on mushroom-colored appearance in the early stages of infestation. More advanced cases will show a white, wool-like, fungus eventually giving way to a splotchy brown or dark brown discoloration mixed with orange or rust. Wood that is completely infested will be crumbly, and some parts could be so weak they are all but pulverized.

  • Seriously infected wood will have a damp, musty odor.

Treatment. Nevertheless, hope is not lost. Caught early, wood infested with dry rot can be treated. You’ll need wood stabilizer and wood filler, both available at your local hardware store. You’ll also need two paintbrushes, a chisel or a saw, and don’t forget gloves and safety goggles. Follow the four-step treatment process below.

1. Stop the source of any leaks that may be responsible for the condition.

2. If the infected area is small enough to be removed without doing serious structural damage, go ahead and use a chisel, or a saw if needed, and remove it.

  • It is of the utmost importance that you remove every last piece of infected wood. Leaving only a little behind is enough to start the whole process rolling again.

3. You will need to treat any uninfected wood that may have bordered the infected swatch with wood stabilizer. Apply the glue-like stabilizer in even layers with one of the paintbrushes. When you’re through, discard the brush. You won’t be able to re-use it. Give the stabilizer a few hours to dry.

4. Apply a layer of wood filler over the stabilizer. Allow it to dry completely before adding a second coat.

  • All wood repair of this sort should be performed on the least humid day possible.
  • Dispose of infected wood promptly. Fungus can spread.
  • Safety first: Wear gloves and goggles when handling and applying chemicals.

Prevention. Of course, the best way to treat dry rot is to do your best to prevent it in the first place. Boric acid, also known as borate, can act as a fungicide. Most hardware stores stock the chemical either by itself or as part of a dry rot treatment kit.

Regular borate is water-soluble and will be ineffective in wet areas. If you are treating wood where there is some degree of liquid water, you will need to use fused borate. Talk to your hardware store sales associate if you are unsure of what to use.

  • Remember, dry rot is not actually dry. The most effective preventative measure you can take is to eliminate as much excess moisture as possible. Pay attention to leaking pipes or faucets and address their cause as soon as possible.

Early identification and treatment of dry rot is essential to preventing serious damage. With a few simple chemicals and a little bit of work, you can ensure a structurally sound home.

Water Heater Maintenance Checklist

You use your water heater more often compared to the furnace and air conditioner. If you want a refreshing hot shower after a day’s work, you use the water heater. There will come a time when your water heater will need to be fixed or replaced. In order to extend the useful life of your water heater, it is best to regularly maintain it.

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Water Heater Maintenance Checklist

The water heater is used year round, which means that it may need regular maintenance to keep it from disrepair and help keep it working properly all the time. Here are some of the things that you must keep in mind when you perform water heater maintenance:

  1. Make sure that you turn off the heater. It does not matter whether your water heater is gas or electric make sure to turn off the heater the night before. If for some reason you cannot turn off your heater the night before, turn it off at least 30 minutes before you start maintenance.
  2. Inspect the water heater for any leaks. To spot leaks, use a mix of warm water and dish soap. Once you have the solution ready, apply it on the pipes and joints of your water heater while looking out for bubbles. If you see any bubbles after applying the solution, it means that your water heater has leaks.
  3. Make sure to check all the valves. Check the temperature and pressure valves of your water heater before you start maintenance work. Lift the lever slowly until you hear the sound of water flowing into the drain tube.
  4. Make sure to drain the water of your water heater. You can drain the water by closing the incoming water valve and connecting a hose to the drain valve. Once you do the two mentioned tasks, you can let the water from your heater drain. Make sure to open a hot water faucet in your house for proper air circulation.
  5. Once you have drained the water, make sure to remove any buildup that remains. To find any buildup left behind after draining, find the clean hole and use a torch to peer inside. Locate any soot, dust, or sediment that may have accumulated or left behind after draining. Once you find any sediment, soot, or dust, use hot water to remove them.
  6. Once you have removed the buildup, make sure to refill the water heater. Close all of the valves and turn on the water to refill the heater.
  7. Lower the temperature. Reducing the temperature of your water heater helps you conserve energy.

These are some maintenance tips that you can follow to keep your water heater in good working condition all year round. Regular maintenance helps extend the useful life of your water heater and prevents frequent repairs or damage. You should have a regular water heater maintenance schedule every year your heater gets older. Like many appliances, heaters age and eventually succumb to wear and tear. By following a maintenance schedule, whether you maintain the heater yourself or hire someone else to do it, you can improve and keep your water heater in top working condition.

If you do not want to maintain the heater or you do not have time, you can always ask a professional to do it for you. There are plenty of professionals waiting for customers just like you. You can easily find one by researching online. You can get the pros and cons of each service provider that you are eyeing. You can also get customer feedback and make an informed choice to get the best value for money.

Mood Lighting in Your Bathroom

mood-lighting-in-your-bathroomOne place which doesn’t get nearly the attention it deserves when it comes to mood lighting concepts is the bathroom. We all spend at least a little time each day in the bathroom and this may be the place where setting the proper mood is pivotal. When you’re in there you don’t want any distractions, you don’t want to feel as though you are under some fluorescent nightmare, and you generally want to walk out of the bathroom looking your best.  Here are some ways to create a relaxing mood in the bathroom with some lighting concepts.

Overhead: The first thing you should do to set a proper mood in your bathroom is get rid of the overhead lights. If you have a fan that’s connected to the switch for the light and you want to continue to use that you can actually take the bulbs out so that you don’t need to be bothered with that upsetting overhead light.

Puck Lights: One of the best ways to create a mood in a room is to isolate the light. Puck lighting lets you do just that. Puck lights create a small spotlight that you can use to really set a mood in the shower, at the sink or over the toilet. Puck lights are a great light to use late at night when you have to escape to the bathroom but you don’t want to wake the rest of the house.

Sconces: Another great way to add mood lighting to your bathroom is to use wall sconces at various points along your wall. Sconces can be set with bulbs of different strength and they can really just be positioned almost anywhere that you want along your wall. As long as you can get power to it, your sconce can set exactly the mood you are interested in.

Floor Lamps: To really get the mood set in your bathroom some people even go as far as having floor lamps set up in the room. You can get floor lamps which have got a short boxy feel so that the light is all kept around the source. You can also get floor lamps which point up at the ceiling to help cast light all over the place. Whatever type of mood it is you are interested in setting you can pretty well get that accomplished with a floor lamp.

Any of these style of lamps can really help set the mood in any room in your home. Bathroom mood should be relaxing whether you are taking a bath, exfoliating your face, or anything else. You want your bathroom to be a calm and soothing place. Switching out the harsh overhead lights you currently have for something a little more ambient may be just the thing your bathroom needs!

8 Ways to Use LED Lights this Halloween

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BOO! Ready to give your trick or treaters a bit of a fright? Try these 8 creative and fun ways to use LED lights this Halloween and see if you can’t add a little more trick into your treats.

Pumpkins

Everyone carves a mean looking pumpkin, but you can add in all kinds of special effects, too, with a few strategically placed LED tea lights. Carve your pumpkin, then take your neon Frankenstein green lights and accentuate the carving with some back lighting.

Spirit jugs

Save up your milk jugs for a few weeks, as many as you need to line your walkway or to set out on an apartment balcony. Take a marker and draw some super spooky faces on the side opposite the handle. Then take some white or orange and black LED lights and fill each of the jugs. Line them up for a spooky entrance-way.

Lanterns

If you have trees or other places to hang lanterns, then create your own using plastic cups and different colors of LED lights. Take a marker and draw spooky faces on your cups. Or, if you are a little more ambitious, add in some cutouts for special effects. Cut wholes in the top and string them on a LED with green wire to create an eerie mood.

Scary eyeballs

You will have fun making this display and even more fun watching children’s reactions when they realize what they are when they arrive at your door. Buy some ping pong balls, you’ll need two dozen, and take a Christmas string of LED lights, long enough to frame your front door. Take your Sharpies and draw eyeballs, with veins on each of the balls. Then make wholes on the bottom to put in the LED light and hang up your eyeballs around your door frame.

Babies heads

This might be super creepy, but the effect is chilling and absolutely Halloween. Just like spirit jugs, take some plastic doll’s heads and do not add any additional design elements. Simply stick the tea lights in side and they will be weird and fun.

Stick figures

Either attached to your little trick or treaters, or on frames to stand in your yard, you can make skeleton outlines easily with led lights. All you need is  two long sets of white LED lights that can be sewn into a black shirt/coat and pants or attached to sticks. Make your skeletons even more scary in your yard with a light skull on top.

Different colors, different vibes

The best reason to use LED lights is that you can create different moods with different light colors. Try using all purple lights because of the eerie glow it creates. Your trick or treaters will feel like they are in a graveyard during a fool moon. If you use yellow or orange, you can get the feeling of danger or fire.

Blinking lights

Use blinking LED lights as special effects around your home to give the feeling of a haunted house and danger ahead. Hang them down in rows like walking through heavy blankets and your trick or treaters will scream with delight.

With LED lights you can create creepy and exciting decorations, yet save money on your electricity bill. How are you using LED lights this Halloween?

Can Window Tinting Affect Your Indoor Plants?

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Window tinting can save you significant money on your heating and cooling bills, protect your furnishings from fading, and protect your skin from the damaging rays of the sun. If you have a green thumb, however, you might be concerned about whether or not residential window tinting will kill your house plants. In almost all cases, it won’t. In some cases, it can even help them be healthier. Here’s what you need to know.

Invisible UV Film and House Plants

Invisible (or clear) UV film is one of the most popular forms of window tinting. This type of tinting film blocks ultraviolet rays (the damaging rays) from the sun while allowing your windows and doors to retain their normal appearance. This type of tinting should not affect your house plants. Most plants do not respond to UV. They require the red and blue rays of the visible light spectrum; blue encourages the growth of leaves, while red encourages flowering. Since invisible UV tinting doesn’t block these rays, your plants should grow normally. Colored films may block some or all blue or red light, so use caution when using these films around your indoor garden.

Plants and Room Darkening Tint

Dark tints are another popular window tinting option. These tints actually darken the room, blocking some of the sun’s visible light from getting through. Because this type of tint will block some of the red and blue light plants require, you’ll need to take special care if you want this type of tinting. Generally speaking, dark tint is not the best choice for rooms in which you’re growing plants that like direct sun. Fortunately, these plants tend not to do well indoors unless you have a grow light, so it’s likely that light from windows won’t be a major concern. Dark tint is, however, a good choice if you have delicate flowers or other plants that need full shade. With dark tint, you may be able to place them right by windows with no ill effect.

Frosting Tints Retardation of Growth

Most forms of frost tinting (other than very dark tints) have little to no effect on plants, as long as they are already getting enough light. Your house plants may, however, need a slight adjustment period. You may notice a minor reduction in their speed of growth for a few weeks until they adjust to their new light levels. If you have any major concerns, speak to a horticultural expert. You may be able to mitigate any problems by moving the plants slightly, adding some inexpensive grow lights, or just waiting for them to adjust. Don’t let using grow lights stop you; they simulate sunlight and can help you avoid the winter blues during the colder months, cost very little to run, and you will most likely be able to offset their cost with what you’re saving on your heating and cooling bills.

Benefits to Plants 

Window tinting, under certain circumstances, can actually benefit your plants. Because tinting help keeps out heat, it can help protect delicate plants from excessively high temperatures, especially during the summer months or if you live in an especially sunny climate. Many delicate flowers may especially appreciate a break from being near a hot, steamy window. Whatever house plants you have, you can make them work with window tinting and enjoy the health and psychological benefits of being surrounded by green, growing things while also enjoying the energy savings that come from tinted windows. Feel free to contact us for any further information; we look forward to helping you create the home of your dreams.

What is Roofing Underlayment?

what-is-roofing-underlaymentAs long as it doesn’t leak and looks reasonably attractive, the average homeowner probably doesn’t give their roof much thought. Still, the roof – and not just the shingles but, more importantly, the underlayment – is an integral part of a homes engineering and construction and must be maintained regularly, if it is to properly do its job. Here are a few of the most important things to know about the underlayment of your roof:

What is roofing underlayment?

While the shingles on a roof usually get all the credit for deflecting the wind and the rain and the snow, it is the underlayment that actually allows them to do so. In particular, the underlayment is the support structure of 4′ x 8′ plywood sheets to which the shingles are attached and any additional materials laid between that structure and the singles. In addition, this underlayment also supports the various flashing, vents, soffits and rakes that keep water from infiltrating under the shingles and into your home.

Does every roof need it?

As noted, the underlayment supports the shingles and the associated items that protect the entire structure from the elements. It is also an integral part of the structural support of the entire building. In fact, it actually holds the walls together unlike the floor that adds no real structural strength – contrary to a popular misconception. So, the answer to the original question posed is a resounding, “Yes!”

Types of underlayment?

The basic components of a roof underlayment are the sheathing, the felt and any specialty protective materials. The sheathing is simply the wood underneath to which everything else is attached. The felt is a material laid on the sheathing so that the shingles do not slide while being installed or at any time afterward. The specialty materials – usually incorrectly called the underlayment by most industry professionals – encompass such things as solar reflective materials, insulators and roof liners that provide extra protection from the wind and the rain.

How does a homeowner maintain it?

Just like any part of the exterior of your home a semi-annual inspection is the best way to identify immediate and potential problems. A reputable roofing repair company will do this task and provide a quote for the necessary repairs for free. It is essential that the inspectors examine the entire perimeter of the roof line, investigate for leaks in the attic as well as “walk the roof” – that is, actually climb onto the roof and feel for soft spots in the underlayment.

How to proceed

There is simply no other option than to have someone – you, a friend or a professional roofer – climb onto your roof once or twice a year and inspect for water infiltration, wind damage and general deterioration. Any potential issues should be addressed as soon as possible as Mother Nature is quite a harsh mistress when it comes to dealing with substandard materials. In short, you can pay a little to fix it now or a lot more to fix it later.

Window Tinting During the Winter

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What is Residential Window Tinting?

Your windows are essential for making your home seem open and spacious rather than cramped and closed-in. However, with the home as with other things, too much light can be as bad as too little. If you find that your windows are letting in an excess of light, then it is time to consider using window film for residential window tinting.

Not only is residential window tinting useful for reducing the amount of lighting coming in through your windows without spoiling your view of the outside, but you will also be pleasantly surprised by its impact on your heating bills during the cooler months of the year.

How Residential Window Tinting Can Reduce Heating Bills in the Cooler Months

Since the windows are so much less substantial than the walls of most homes, it should come as no surprise to learn that windows tend to have rather poor insulation. In the cooler months, this can be a serious problem since heat is escaping through the windows on a constant basis, resulting in mounting heating bills.

Residential window tinting can keep heat inside your home during winter for much the same reason that it can keep heat outside your home during summer. Simply put, the window film makes it easier for the window to reflect light and the heat that it carries. In summer, this ensures that less of the light of the sun can penetrate your windows to heat up the cool air of your home. In winter, this same characteristic ensures that less light can escape through your windows once it is reflected off of the interior of your home.

As a result, having residential window tinting serves to keep heat both out during summer and in during winter. This is important because its superior insulation reduces both your cooling costs during summer and your heating costs during winter. Although the savings in each month is small, they can add up to impressive figures over the course of years.

Other Benefits of Residential Window Tinting

Of course, reducing heating and cooling costs is not the only reason that you should consider installing window film. For example, one reason to have residential window tinting is to keep ultraviolet light out of your home. This is important not only because too much ultraviolet light can cause furnishings to fade faster, but also because it is considered a carcinogen.

Other potential benefits of having residential window tinting include, but are not limited to shatter-resistant windows, a reduction in glare, and even a superior view of the outside. After all, it is rather difficult to look outside when the light of the sun is making it impossible for you to keep your eyes open.

The 10 Benefits of LED Light

the-10-benefits-of-led-lightLED (light-emitting diode) lights are definitely coming in vogue and taking the place of incandescents. Why? Compared to incandescent bulbs, LED lights are more versatile in that they come in an array of colors and brightnesses. LED lights are also more cost-efficient and seen as a more environmentally-conscious choice.

Energy Saving 

LED lights are said to last 25 times longer than traditional, incandescent bulbs. In fact, LED lights only use one-fourth the energy of incandescents, according to the US Department of Energy. LED lights also avoid leaching any energy from your power supply when not in use.

Versatility of Use 

Mainly due to the cost-efficiency and ease of use of applying LED lights in residential and commercial applications, LED lights can be used for ambient lighting around your garden, garage, place of work, kitchen or bedroom. LED lights are so versatile, in part, because they are directional and come in a variety of luminosities. A hanging light in the kitchen outfitted with a cooler, mellow LED definitely works!

Budget-Friendly Mood Lighting 

LED lights can be purchased in a string of hundreds of tiny LED lights that go great in the den or bedroom. The tininess of these LED lights belies their strength – these lights can literally last a generation or more and many are guaranteed by the manufacturer for five years or more. Just plug the string of LED lights into a standard wall outlet and enjoy mellow, warm lighting.

Immediate Results 

Especially compared to CFL lights, which can take some time to get going, the full brightness of an LED light is seen within seconds of flipping the switch. LED lights also remain cool even after hours of use. This is why LED lights go great on walls or otherwise unaccommodating places – there’s never any serious risk of overheating or quick burnouts.

Choose a Color, Any Color 

Incandescents are in some ways one trick ponies – you know you’re bound for a one-dimensional, yellow hue when you ring up an incandescent. LED lights, on the other hand, come in a variety of color temperatures. If you want a cooler color temperature (say, blue) for the den, then LED lights can make that happen. If you want a warmer LED light (say, a shiny white) to string across the bathroom walls, then that’s also possible with LEDs.

Constant Over Time 

You can think of a regular lightbulb as a battery that wanes in its output over time. LED lights, though, give you the same light over their entire lifetime, which can be 10 years or more depending on whether the LED is EnergyStar-certified. It’s really a no-brainer – if you’re looking for a constant light source tailored to your color and size specifications, then LED lights are the way to go.