Cellular Shades Buyer’s Guide

Cellular Shades Buyer’s Guide

“Top Down / Bottom Up” feature enables you to raise your blind from the bottom, and lower the shade from the top simultaneously to allow light in from the outside while maintaining privacy and eliminating glare on computer or television screens. With this feature you can fully raise the blind.

Top Down/Bottom Up

Shade will lower from the top as well as raise from the bottom, giving you maximum light control.  The Top Down/Bottom Up feature allows you to lower the top for light in a bathroom while dressing or to bring light into your office while keeping glare off your computer monitor.  If you have a window larger than 96″ w x 72″ h buy the Top Down shade.

“Top Down” feature allows you to raise your blind from the window sill only. You do not have the ability to lower the shade from the top; with this feature you cannot fully raise the blind to the top of the window to have a completely unobstructed view. The “top down” feature allows the blind to be larger in area than top down/bottom up shades, but limits the degree of light control. Tina believes that the greater functionality with the top down/bottom up style is more helpful to you than the larger size.

Please note: the top down / bottom up shades by Hunter Douglas come with a fabric gasket on the bottom of the headrail to block light leakage between the headrail and top rail when the shade is raised. Some people find this gasket unattractive.

UltraGlide by Hunter Douglas maintains the control cords at a constant length. This feature eliminates the pool of cords that form on the floor when a cellular blind is fully raised, and is therefore recommended for use with young children. This option is available on both standard bottom up shades as well as top down / bottom up Duette honeycomb shades.

HUNTER DOUGLAS ULTRAGLIDE FEATURE

Keeps the cord length the same whether the shade is raised or lowered; great for child safety

Please note: the UltraGlide with top down / bottom up shades comes with a fabric gasket on the bottom of the headrail to block light leakage between the headrail and top rail when the shade is raised. Some people find this gasket unattractive.

Continuous cord loop feature maintains the cord at the same length regardless of shade position and is recommended for use around young children after proper mounting of the cord guide to the wall.

Continuous Cord Loop shade

Continuous Cord Loop option is used to aide in lifting large blinds.  This feature is also child friendly when the cord loop is properly mounted on the wall.

Cordless lift is available if you do not appreciate the look of a pool of cording collecting on the floor when your blind is raised. The cordless blind provides a greater measure of safety for young children since it eliminates dangling cords.

Cordless Lift shades

Cordless option removes all cords that could endanger children.  This enables you to raise and lower the shade with the touch of your hand.

Remote Controlled (aka PowerRise) is available for hard to reach windows. The battery operated blind provides a greater measure of safety for young children by eliminating dangling cords.

Two Blinds in One (this is NOT multiple blinds on one headrail) is available to optimize light control with cellular shades. Sheer or light-filtering fabric can be used during the daytime and room-darkening fabric can be used at night to afford you the maximum in light control for your room.

Two fabrics are used: one between the top rail and the center rail and one between the center rail and bottom rail. Each panel has its own set of lift cords so either fabric panel, or portion of a fabric panel, may be used to cover a window.

Vertical Cellulars (aka Vertiglide) is a stunning way to cover sliding glass doors, French doors and other wide window(s). A stark contract to traditional vertical blinds, these cellular shades create a refined look in your room while providing the light control you need.

What can Cellular Shades do for me?

Cellular shades provide a unique way to creatively dress your windows while controlling light and privacy. They come in a large assortment of fabrics and colors and come in varying price ranges to fit any budget.

  • When the shade is fully lowered, the design of the cell creates a pocket of insulating air between your window and your room. This pocket of air helps reduce heat loss in the winter and heat gain in the summer, resulting in lower energy bills. Cellular shades are available in single, double and triple cell designs. The greater the number of cell layers, the greater the energy efficiency.
  • Single cell cellular shades are available in a variety of pleat sizes including 3/8″, 7/16″, 1/2″ 9/16″, 3/4″, 1″, and 2″.
  • Cellular shades stack compactly when fully raised to give you the maximum view out your window
  • Available in a vast array of colors to coordinate with your room décor, with white to the street side
  • Several fabric selections for light control and privacy from sheer to room darkening fabrics.
  • Window size and shape versatility. Cellular shades enable you to fit any specialty window, including arches, circles, skylights or virtually any shape that your windows necessitate.
  • Easy to operate and clean, and very durable

Types of Cellular Shades

  • Single cell offers sound control, energy efficiency, privacy and light control in the widest array of pleat sizes ranging from 3/8”, 7/16″, 1/2″, 9/16″, 3/4″, 1″ and 2” to perfectly suit your style.
  • Double cell offer better sound control, energy efficiency, privacy and light control
  • Triple cell offer the best in sound control, energy efficiency, privacy and light control.

Recommended Rooms For Use

  • Living room
  • Dining room
  • Family room
  • Kitchen
  • Office (great for top down bottom up feature)
  • Breakfast nook
  • Bedroom
  • Game room
  • Bathroom (perfect for top down bottom up feature)
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Should You Buy a Wood Stove?

Are Wood Stoves Worth the Investment?

Old Fashioned Radiant Heat

Many people don’t think of adding wood burning stove until the energy prices rise precipitously or they have a prolonged power outage during cold weather, but a wood burner is not just useful for both those circumstances, it is comforting heat. There are caveats, and this lens is to address as many of those as my experience with wood stoves allows. You have probably thought of some of the pros and cons, but still wonder if wood heat is for you. I hope to give you pointers and tips, too (consulting with my husband who is a fire and safety specialist and our home’s woodstove installer and maintenance man).

Once you remember certain precautions such as clearance and regular maintenance chores such as creosote cleanup, wood heat is a viable alternative to comfort and going off the grid, if that is your aim.

I hope to expand on this introduction to wood heat and wood burning stoves. Stay tuned as the lens develops…

Warm, comfortable radiant heat…. ahhhhh. Sit around my stove and join me while I tell you more.

Stove vs. Fireplace

Why shouldn’t I just light a fire in the fireplace? Many homes have a fireplace in the living room. A fireplace with a mantle is a decorative feature that remained after the need for fireplaces for heat and cooking were long gone. In fact, the heat stove was a big improvement on the fireplace for those necessary activities.

Although we now largely use wood in heating stoves, coal was the fuel of choice prior to the advent of electricity and natural gas (the usual heat and cooking energy sources used today). There still are stoves fitted for coal rather than wood, as well as highly efficient stove heaters which use “pellets”, but in many areas of the USA, wood is a renewable resource that is readily available, features that are important in the choice of a stove, or even whether a wood stove is a practical purchase. Wood stove fans area also brilliant addition and they help make your stove more efficient.

The trouble with most of today’s fireplaces is the fact that they don’t work well, they don’t “draw” the smoke up the chimney or create the ideal combustible conditions. When we first made the decision to use supplemental heat so many years ago, we had contracted with a person who made “Rumford” design chimneys, and then attached the Vermont Castings stove to that.

Usually fireplaces are very inefficient ways to heat a room, and trying to cook with a fireplace is not something most modern people want to attempt. Even wood stoves must be of a certain make and design to be used for cooking, although that is available.

Rumford Chimneys

Count RumfordNamed after Count Rumford, who popularized this style of building a chimney, the Rumford chimney was a step towards creating a more efficient way to heat the home in cold climates.

As much of an improvement as this style of fireplace was at the time, the stove, and later the “air tight” stove became great improvements in use of fuel and in reducing the level of emissions and particulate from many of the types of wood that gets burned in them.

Stove Features

Wood stoves are commonly made of several materials. Cast iron, enameled cast iron, soapstone, and steel are among the choices available. I have not had the privilege of owning a soapstone stone, but have had both steel and cast iron. I think the cast iron, especially the enameled ones, are highly preferable. We’ve owned Vermont Castings brand, but the Napoleon brand compares very well.

What are the pros and cons of each type?

Steel Stoves

Economy sums up the benefit for a steel stove, it is lighter in weight, and less expensive than other material choices, usually. It heats up quickly, but is dangerously hot to the touch ( if you should accidentally come in contact with the hot metal.) The finish is usually easy to care for.

Cast Iron Stoves

Solid, heavy, and retains heat well. Cast iron stoves will need some maintenance work to keep the finish looking good. Quality stoves range from $800 up depending on factors such as size and features.

Enameled Cast Iron Stoves

Enameled Finish Cast Iron StoveThe beauty of the enameled finish is one obvious feature. The finish is easy to wipe clean and maintain, but my own experience is that it crazes and cracks with use over the years. Still, a beautiful choice and not every user is as hard on their stove as my family has been.

Soapstone Wood Burner Stoves

As one manufacturer says, “Unlike standard wood burning stoves, a soapstone masonry heater uses the soapstone mass to store the heat, and slowly radiates it over time. The heat released by the soapstone, very much feels like the heat from the sun when you sit in a sunroom.” Soapstone is not only quite beautiful, it is safer should you happen to make contact with it while hot. Quite heavy and expensive, as well. Expect to pay between $5,000 to $10,000 for your stove. Stone requires more time to heat up, but once it has, it holds heat much longer.

Lehman’s, a purveyor of many many homesteading items describes the Napoleon brand of wood stoves:

“Affordable, efficient heat with low emissions A trusted name in wood burning, Napoleon is North America’s largest hearth products manufacturer. Now your family can reap the benefits of the company’s years of research, strict quality testing and patented technology. Designed and built in Canada, these stoves consistently surpass EPA standards, providing you with an extremely clean, efficient wood burner. Stoves completely utilize the firebox chamber with a fully lined refractory system. This kiln-like atmosphere results in amazingly long day or overnight burns with very low emissions. Innovative engineering and design and outstanding craftsmanship make these stoves a great value and investment for any home. “

Living with a Wood Stove

For heat or cooking, or both. Wood stove heat is cozy, it is a steady and soothing radiant warmth on chill wintry days. It removes the sting of electric outages and gas price fluctuations. It is efficient if you purchase a well made, air tight and technologically up- to-date model. What is not to love?

I wouldn’t trade the good feeling of radiant heat for anything else in our cold winters, but there are some drawbacks to living with the wood stove.

  • You have to feed it- hauling in wood daily. The wood supply is usually kept outside, and you have to get several logs into the fire several times a day.
  • Even an air tight stove produces some fine ash. Ashes around the stove, and regular clean-out of the ashes is necessary. You might feel a little like Cinderella, cleaning it all up.
  • Wood needs to be purchased each year, or obtained and split to size. It is usually up to the purchaser to stack it after delivery.
  • Chimneys should be cleaned annually.
  • There may be issues with your insurance company which need to be worked out.

Wood Cookstoves

Most cook stoves are made of cast iron, some are trimmed with nickel, some have an enamel coating. They are very heavy.

Cooking with wood heat is a little different. That is an understatement! The wood-burning cook stoves of today, such as the replica 1800’s stove made by the Elmira Stove Works company, are far more efficient than the predecessors they were styled upon, but they still operate in ways that make cooking and baking much more time consuming and inexact.

A few things to note about cooking with this type of stove:

  • Temperature gauges tend to be inexact when it comes to baking. Use a standalone oven thermometer.
  • Wood stove heat requires more attention, adjusting temperature through dampers and relative distance to heat source (the woodbox)
  • You may need to rotate the pans during the baking process
  • Size and type of wood makes a difference in resulting temperatures.
  • Stovetop cooking temperatures are adjusted by moving the pans to different areas of the top surface

When investigating buying a new stove, I was impressed with the Waterford manufacturer. It is compact, and efficient, with a clean white enameled surface. That is the one I would buy. The one I had was an antique and I don’t advise this choice on several counts. It can be missing racks, and other types of parts, which aren’t easy to replace. If it is cast iron (mine was) it will need blacking. Not being airtight, a great deal of heat is lost.

Still, whatever wood heating cookstove you have, it will heat the room well during the cold season, and you can continue cooking regardless of electric power. Stews, soups, and other meals that are best slow cooked will be the perfect choices for this type of stove.

Finding the Right Stove for You

Research… that is the basic source of information gathering that you will do when purchasing your stove, but I also like to talk with those who have a particular wood stove and to visit showrooms. These aren’t located just anywhere, I realize. In Ohio the Lehman’s store, which is known nationwide, has a large showroom for wood cookstoves and heaters. There used to be more, but the economy means that not every store is displaying a number of wood stoves. Public tastes seem to have shifted towards gas and electric as energy prices eased, but wood energy is not dependent on whether you have electric working or not. That is one of the beauties of it.

Answering questions of sustainability, “Use of USA Forests for Home Heating“.

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What is the Best Pressure Washer Under $400

Looking for the best pressure washers for the money? There are many great power washers available, yet only a few of them are noteworthy below four hundred dollars. With that said, you can undoubtedly find what is the best pressure washer under 400 bucks for yourself with just a little bit of research.

I am confident that the products I have decided to review will impress you so much that you may even be compelled to pick one up on the spot. My reviews are focused on providing you with an overview of these products. Of course, I only choose pressure washers that are already positively reviewed and reliable as well.

powerful gas powered pressure washers

AR Blue Clean AR240 1,750 PSI 1.5 GPM Electric Pressure Washer

AR Clean Blue Pressure WasherThe AR Blue Clean AR240 1,750 PSI 1.5 GPM Electric Pressure Washer is a top of the line product manufactured by Annovi Reverberi. The make and quality of this product assures users that it is effective, safe, and very easy to use. It cleans everything from your car, walls, and even stucco.

We will look into this quality product and see what great features and recommendations we can find.

What Can You Expect From The AR Clean Blue Pressure Washer?

  • 1,750 PSI/1.50 GPM.
  • Automated safety vent that allows pressure shut-off in its pump head.
  • Three axial-piston wobble-plate pump.
  • Tempered stainless steel plungers.
  • Power cord up to 30 foot long/20-Foot hose.
  • Durable induction motor.
  • Modifiable spray head.
  • Adjustable or turbo nozzle.

Product Overview

The AR Blue Clean AR240 1,750 PSI 1.5 GPM Electric Pressure Washer is a state of the art high pressure pump created to clean and remove dirt from surfaces. This is perfectly safe to use because of its automated safety valve that allows pressure shut-off located in its pump head.

It has three axial-piston wobble-plate pump, tempered stainless steel plungers, durable induction motor, and a modifiable spray head.

Clean those hard to reach areas; this item has a power cord that is 30 feet long, and a 20 foot hose that will enable you to walk far away from this device. Never get frustrated in trying to find a power cord near you just so you can do your work.

This product is ideal for cleaning any type of vehicles, and even concrete. You do not have to scrub it anymore. With its high pressure pump, you can avoid the hassle of cleaning for a long period of time.

Pros and Cons

Pros

A very descriptive booklet is provided for guidance on how to use the product. The writing is quite small, so for those of us that are a bit longsighted, you can even check their website to see how to assemble and use the item safely.

The cord attached to the pressure washer is thick and assures that it will not snap easily. It is very compact and can be stored anywhere; the pressure is amazing and cleans easily without having to scrub.

This is a bang for the buck product that does exactly what it offers in its description.

Cons

Some people cannot read the manual properly because of the small size and had to check the website for more information. Some customers complained that their swivel hose adapter leaked.

Conclusion

Disregarding the faulty manual description, I could say that this item is worth buying. Just make sure that you try it a couple of times so you can replace it immediately if there are leaks.

Generac 6022/5989 2,700 PSI

generacThe Generac 6022/5989 2,700 PSI 2.3 GPM 196cc OHV Gas Powered Pressure Washer can help you bring new life to old surfaces. From wood, to concrete, vinyl, and even metal, you can get the best looking surfaces with a high-powered spray of water and nothing else.

This pressure washer is powerful and easy to move around. You can clean the outside of your house with relative ease. It starts easily and it is great for taking dirt and mold off a deck. You can even use it to blast scale from boiler tubes. Once you have this you won’t be able to resist cleaning everything, it is that easy to use!

Key Features

  • Pressure up to 2,700 pounds per square inch.
  • Expels 2.3 gallons of water per minute.
  • Ergonomic spray nozzle included.
  • Easy to pull trigger.
  • Measures 17.6” by 27.1” by 20.6 inches and weighs 71 pounds

Product Overview

The Generac 6022 Gas Powered Pressure Washer is a residential grade power washing machine with 2,700 PSI and 2.3 GPM. The powerful 196cc OHV engine from Generac includes automatic low oil shut down feature to protect the engine from damage in the event that there is not enough oil lubricating it.

The easy access to the axial cam pump let you make those hose connections with ease, and the ergonomic spray gun has a soft grip and an easy-pull trigger which can reduce fatigue as you use the power washer.

This device comes with an ergonomic spray gun style and its grip where intended to be soft and manageable or easy to use. This is non-CARB compliant and uses a hose of 25 foot.

Pros and Cons

Pros

Powerful! For a residential power washing machine, this device does an excellent job and has a high power rating. The power rating is a number determined by multiplying the PSI with the GPM of the pressure washer.

Cons

The engine can sometimes stall out, and the pumps have been known to have issues with them. The machine has a high rate of error in production as some have complained of problems from the first time they used the pressure washer such as leaking gasoline, having a broken handle rack, engine stalling, and other various problems that had they been properly inspected and tested would probably have been kept out of the hands of the consumer.

Conclusion

This is a practical power washer for the average home owner and can definitely help you get the job done when you’re being a weekend warrior and getting things off your honey-do list. I could use this power washer proudly knowing that it is powerful enough to handle just about any job around the outside of the house and around the yard. There’s nothing like a freshly cleaned outdoor surface free of mold. It is a deep clean that lasts long enough to be completely worth the up-front effort involved.

Generac 6024/5991

This gas powered high performance washer has a 212cc OHV engine with multiple features. It earned about 4.5 stars from Amazon reviewers and costs about $400. It has a low oil shut down to help prevent burning out the engine, it has quick click nozzle tips with various degrees of washes from zero to 40, and it has a back side hose connection.

It is easy to maneuver and has a pump easy access. This machine has a built in step to enable easy starting. It has a 30 foot hose and an integrated gun holster. Foot rests are also included to relieve stress on your feet. It has axial cam pump that dissipates the maximum heat.

A thick cushion grip is added for more comfort along with an ergonomic wand. There is a two year warranty that is included when you purchase this product. It is not sold in the state of California since it is non carb compliant. It has a welded framed for additional durability.

This gas powered power washer generates 3,100 PSI. It has five quick nozzles and a quick connect steel lance. It has a robust trolley and a profi 200 ergonomic spray gun.

Its tires are 10 inches premium pneumatic and are double sealed. Its engine is a Honda GC 190 and is reliable for an easy start. This machine run quietly and is heavy duty and durable. It received four stars from Amazon reviewers and costs about $400. It also has a thermal relief valve.

Powerhorse Gas Powered Pressure Washer

This machine generates 3,000 PSI and runs at 2.5 gpm. It has a 208cc OHV engine with a cast iron sleeve. It has a downstream injector along with an ability to shut down if the oil is low. It has a direct drive axial pump where the pressure can be adjusted. There is a pump oil included along with a 25 foot high pressure hose that is thermally protected.

There is a 25 inch high pressure nozzle along with a detergent nozzle. It is non carb compliant which means it will not be sold in the state of California since it does not meet environmental requirements. This washer has a steel frame with large 10 inch pneumatic tires for easy maneuverability. This product costs about $300 on Amazon.

Best pressure washer for car detailing

Knowing what you’ll be primarily using your washer for helps in making a decision on which model you should be looking at. If you will be using it for car detailing for your own cars, you won’t need anything too powerful. But if you’re looking to start a car detailing business, then you should be going with  a gas powered model. Once you have your washer, just wet down your vehicle and quickly apply soap, sponge it off, then rinse. It just doesn’t get much easier than that!
Best pressure washer for car detailing
Within a four hundred dollar budget, you can absolutely find a pressure washer that can meet your needs and last for a long time as well. In this price range, you are paying for a quality product that is intended for long period of use.

Whether you are planning to use this washing machine every week to keep your car looking sleek, or just once a month or two until the end of your lifetime, you will likely be able to find some reason to buy one of these appliances. The best pressure washer under 400 dollars is prepared to help you achieve any goals you have at home related to cleanliness on a larger scale.

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Best Flooring for a Wet Basement

Wet Basement Flooring Options

Recently, I received an email from a reader who’s having a little bit of problems with her basement flooring as the installed flooring is buckled and dark from the water that’s penetrating their room. It seems like they’ve got a drainage issue that pretty much keeps the place wet or damp most all of the time. Read her problem just below and then we’ll discuss if there is a solution for these wet floors.

“We have a basement level that is susceptible to water penetration from an exterior drainage problem. Unfortunately, we only found out about this after we installed bamboo flooring which is now buckled and dark from the moisture. (It’s really not possible to fix the exterior drainage problem.) We’re going to take out the flooring, but we’re not sure what to put in. The sub-floor seems to be a mix of concrete and plywood. We can’t put in a floating floor. I could really use some advice. Assume that the floor will be damp all the time :-( .

Thanks!
Jocelyn”

Well, as you can tell Jocelyn is in a little bit of a pickle here without being able to fix the drainage issue. One thing that would help would be a bit more knowledge and information around what exactly that drain problem is that’s keeping the floor wet. Not knowing is causing me a bit of a problem here as we can’t decipher where it’s coming from. The window, walls or up through the concrete. Another puzzling piece as well is how much water is actually getting in.

At any rate, you should do all that you can to at least minimize the water coming into the lower level as this could be a potentially dangerous and unhealthy situation. Whether that is having a company come in and waterproof the basement or take measures into your own hands to do so, then do the best you can. Nobody wants to end up potentially flooded. Hopefully nothing of value is down there as you certainly wouldn’t want it ruined and be out of pocket on it or worse, something not replaceable like family heirlooms.

What I wouldn’t use for flooring this room

Let’s start here first as it’s easier to say no then yes, at least for me. Wooden subfloors or any type of subfloor that maintains solid contact with your concrete floor would be out. That’s not to say that you can’t have a subfloor, as there are other types that will leave a vapor barrier in between it and the concrete so it can dry appropriately and also not rot from the water. But we don’t often do this in basement renovation in GTA. Carpet or carpet tiles would also be out. The carpet will mildew and mold and the adhesives used to stick the tiles in place typically don’t hold up to repeated soaks in water.

Engineered or laminate flooring would also not be a wise choice either. These would also likely buckle into an unsightly mess as well. I know most folks have an affinity for hardwood floors, but this basements a no-no.

You can check out this decent video of some more ideas…

Possible Wet Basement Flooring Ideas

Idea 1: Paint the floor. This could be a viable solution for many reasons. One, it’s cheaper to paint it than to install some type of flooring on it. Two, you can pretty much get any color that you’d like to have down there. Three, it won’t buckle or rot with water exposure, provided you get the right kind of paint. Finally, painting is easy. If you can paint a wall then you can paint a floor. Just don’t paint yourself into a corner. The one drawback with painted basement floor is that in a few years or so, you’ll probably have to paint it again as it will likely chip and peel in places depending on the exposure and traffic.

Idea 2: Stained floor. This is actually a growing trend. Although a little tougher than simply painting the floor, the outcome are beautiful and you can get really creative design wise with etchings and such. Plus with all the different types and colors of stains you have a wide range of choices to pick from. Look for some more from me soon on this one.

Idea 3: Tiled basement floor. This is another very viable option for wet basements. This one will take a little bit more manual labor than others as you’ll have to haul it all downstairs, but it also opens up the realm of possibilities as you’ll be able to use single patterns, multiple patterns, sizes, borders, etc. You can get very creative with using tiles and when they do get wet you just have to mop them up.

These are suggestions and to be used at your own risk. I would definitely consult a local professional to take a better look at the issue and then make a decision as to what you want to do with your basement floor.

“Best” is one of those words I don’t like to use much as it’s more of an opinion word. Not being a very opinionated type person, especially surrounding one’s home as it’s in the eye of the beholder (or homeowner in this case), I like to leave that part to you to make as to which one of these solutions would be the best flooring for a wet basement.

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An Overview of Hardwood Flooring

Is Hardwood Flooring the Best Option for Your Home?

As a major part of your overall decorating scheme, your home’s flooring can make the boldest statements regarding your personality. But flooring choices are as much practical as they are aesthetic, and hardwood floors provide the look and durability you need in a floor, with the beauty and excitement you want in your interior design.

There are three major types of solid wood flooring available:

  1. Strip Flooring – this is the most common, with strips ranging from 1-1/2 inches to 3-1/4 inches wide depending on the look you want. These are installed by nailing to the sub floor, and come in oak, maple, walnut, cherry, hickory and even bamboo.
  2. Plank Flooring – these boards are at least three inches wide, but usually larger, up to 12 inches wide. They can be nailed to the subfloor, but are typically screwed in. The screw holes are then covered with wooden plugs.
  3. Parquet Flooring – these 6” by 6” blocks come in a range of design patterns, allowing you to achieved dramatic geometric effects. Some specialty patterns are as large as 36 inches square; these can also be inlaid into more traditional wood flooring for a unique design detail.

>Wood flooring can be purchased finished or unfinished. Unfinished wood flooring must be sanded, stained and finished after installation. On the other hand, these extra steps can be avoided by using finished wood flooring, which only requires installation.

unfinished wood floor

The type of flooring you purchase is determined strictly by the look you want to achieve, although sometimes the architectural style of your home lends itself more to one type of flooring than another. But with the amount of choices today, you can pretty much achieve any custom flooring design you can imagine. In addition, the types of wood that are used, how the wood is laid out, whether it is painted or not, the color of stain, and the glossiness of the finish all effect the overall look of your room. Let’s look at some of these elements as they relate to your home.

Country & Colonial

Beginning with oldest home styles, you might own a colonial or country home, or want to achieve that look in a modern house. In these cases, wide plank flooring is your best basic choice. These planks are usually 4-12 inches wide. They can be purchased new, but because so many larger trees that would yield these wide boards have already been harvested, an entire secondary industry has arisen that salvages wide-plank flooring from older home and industrial buildings scheduled for demolition.

A colonial look would be extremely basic, with a light stain and urethane varnish. A hand-painted floor cloth is a perfect contrast to the plain wood in a colonial-style home.

With country, the stain may be a little darker, but here you have the additional design element of stenciling a border around the floor to give the look of home-spun craftsmanship. You may even wish to inlay one thin strip of darker wood as an offset to the larger planks. A different look can be achieved by painting the floor, whether solid or patterned with a checkerboard or the like. Where floors are painted, strip flooring will do in place of plank flooring.

traditional wood floor

Victorian

The fun with a Victorian home is all the exciting wood patterns you can achieve using different types of strip flooring with different stains. Victorian homes are known for bright colors and bold statements, so a striped inlay flooring of contrasting colors looks great. One option is two rows of lighter maple flooring, with every third row being a darker walnut or hickory. You can also paint a Victorian floor, but use more vivid and contrasting colors than in a country home. And rather than a simple checkerboard pattern, offset it to a diamond pattern.

Arts and Crafts

This is where the whimsy of Victorian meets the sophistication of more traditional styles. An Arts & Crafts look calls for traditional strip flooring, but with inlaid borders of contrasting colors and woods. These borders can be simply smaller strips of wood, or more intricate classical motifs. A decorative wood inlay can make a spectacular statement. These inlays used to be installed by skilled craftsmen, but are now manufactured as preassembled pieces, and can be set into existing strip flooring by the handy do-it-yourselfer.

Traditional & Modern

Here is where the options are almost unlimited in the use of strip or parquet flooring. Perhaps you might opt for simple strip flooring throughout the home, but with dramatic parquet flooring in the foyer. Stains used can range from light to dark, depending on the style of your furniture and wall coverings, as well as the amount of light entering the room. Furthermore, the choice of varnish will enhance the look of the room. Use a plain or semi-floss urethane for the more casual rooms in your home, and a high gloss urethane for more formal living and entertaining rooms. Remember that your wood flooring is an extension of the interior design of the rest of your home, and it should blend with and complement that design.

The great advantage of wood flooring is that it can be bold and colorful, and yet exude a subtle warmth that welcomes guests to your home. Limited only by your imagination, the design of your wood floor is an extension of your personality and style.

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Awesome Outdoor Kitchen Tips!

Tips On Creating an Awesome Outdoor Kitchen

Outdoor kitchens are perfect for sprucing up your backyard oasis and entertaining your friends and family during the warm summer months. Enjoying the fresh air along with some quality food is fun for everyone, and having an outdoor kitchen saves you from having to run back and forth constantly from your indoor kitchen to get a meal prepared and served.

If you’re planning on adding an outdoor kitchen to your backyard or garden area, there are certain aspects you need to be aware of before finalizing your plans.  You should carefully consider aspects such as location, design and materials to ensure that your outdoor kitchen is convenient, is fully equipped and can withstand all types of conditions throughout the year.

Where Should You Build Your Outdoor Kitchen?

Placement is very important when you build an outdoor kitchen because you need to ensure that you do not restrict any views, that the placement is convenient for you to use and that you locate the kitchen in an area where the weather is not going to affect it adversely. Ensure you consider all of these things when choosing your location:

  • Wind – You can’t control the elements, however you can place your grill accordingly so smoke doesn’t billow into your neighbor’s gardens or disrupt your guests. Smoke will usually blow downwind of the grill so if you can, try and make sure patios or decks upwind of the smoke. In addition, refrain from placing your outdoor kitchen near windows or doors that are downwind because then the smoke will flow inside the house.
  • Vision – Place counters in such a way so that every view is taken into account. For example, the main thing you need to think about it is whether your neighbors can see you. You will probably want some privacy when you are working and entertaining in your outdoor kitchen, so consider placing it where hedges or trees block the view to the neighbor’s house.  This will not only benefit you, but your neighbor’s privacy as well. Moreover, you must consider what your guests will be seeing when they are sitting at the counter or table, as well as what view the person has that will be cooking at the grill.
  • Keep cool – The outdoor kitchen will be used on many a warm sunny day, but to refrain from getting yourself and the appliances too hot, make sure the area around the kitchen is shaded so that it stays cool. The cheapest option is to build the kitchen under the shade of trees, as it will block out the harsh sun to prevent electrical equipment from overheating and will also keep the rays of sun out of your eyes while cooking without it costing you anything extra. If this option doesn’t work for you, or you don’t want to deal with falling leaves or acorns from overhead, then you can always purchase patio umbrellas which can provide some shade near the cooking areas and also by outdoor dining room sets, or you can build a covering or trellis overhead.   You can also install a rollup awning or motorized blinds for coverage.
  • Stay close to your house – Having a kitchen area in close proximity to your indoor kitchen is a good idea because then you only have a short distance to walk if you need additional supplies. Moreover, you will still need to store and prep the majority of the food indoors, so it makes sense to build the outdoor area near the back entrance to your home. Also, you will most likely have electric and gas lines located near the home, which is vital in order for your outdoor kitchen to run.  Not having to run these lines too far from the house will limit your installation costs.
  • outside kitchen tips

Outdoor Kitchen Design

The design of your outdoor kitchen is pretty much up to you.  However, there are three main layouts that you may want to consider adopting for your backyard kitchen.

  • Basic – This style is best suited for people that will be using the outdoor kitchen on an occasional basis rather than more regularly. It features a grill, a sink and a counter used for prepping food, as well as a small storage space.  This design leaves out many extras but is also usually the most affordable.
  • L-shaped – This layout consists of two separate units. The base of the ‘L’ shape will contain the grill along with the storage compartments, whereas the other counter will provide a preparation area as well as a small space for dining. You will be able to place stools underneath this counter to allow people to sit at the counter for dining and entertaining purposes.
  • U-shapedThis design is the most popular among those that intend to use the kitchen on a regular basis. It provides a larger dining space for a number of guests, as well as all the necessary areas for the grill, the prepping station, storage compartments and any other extras you desire. It is also the most convenient, as the chef can place all of the cooked food straight onto the dining area.

Using the Right Materials In Your Outdoor Kitchen

One of the major things you need to consider is the types of materials you are going to use to construct your outdoor kitchen. You want to make sure you have materials that are made to withstand food use in order to ensure that food will not be contaminated. Moreover, if you choose the right materials, then you can prevent too much wear and tear or corrosion throughout the year so you want to make sure the materials withstand outdoor use as well.

When it comes to outdoor kitchen materials, consider these points:

  • Ensure it’s easily manageable – There is nothing more frustrating than having to clean a surface that requires a lot of work, so make sure you use stainless steel on your units and grill. It is the most sanitary material and it is very easy to clean.  It also maintains its condition well even in various types of weather.
  • Install counters that can handle the heat – Despite shading your kitchen, it will at some point be in direct sunlight, which on a very hot day, can heat up surfaces very quickly. Make sure you find heat durable materials.  You also want to make sure that any materials near grills or other cooking surfaces are heat resistant.
  • Consider natural stone – Installing stone counters may be the best way to go, as they are easy to clean as well as looking stylish. However, keep in mind that they may need to be sealed on a regular basis, especially since they are outdoors.
  • Be aware of grease – We all know that cooked meat straight off the grill is accompanied by unsightly grease stains so make sure that any of the furniture you locate near the outdoor kitchen contains materials that don’t stain.  This is especially important for any patio cushions, stool cushions or other materials on your outdoor dining chairs.

Appliances for Your New Space

No kitchen is a “kitchen” without the right equipment. This can be anything from having some solid sharp knives around to having Japanese rice cooker or an espresso machine.  Just follow a few guidelines to make sure what you decide to include isn’t overkill or a potential hazard!

  • Outlets – Are there enough outlets for all of the appliances you’re looking to install? Running extension cords in an outdoor kitchen can be very dangerous if it starts raining or there is grease or other conductive material around. Don’t crowd the plugs you have.
  • Materials – Stainless steel may be the best option for outdoor appliances like refrigerators or slow cookers. They resist staining and rust better in an environment that will always be changing. Remember, unless you’re going to be bringing these in every time, they need to last in outdoor conditions.

Additional Items To Consider For Outdoor Kitchens

If you’re hoping to get a lot of use out of your new outdoor kitchen, then you will probably want to consider adding some extra goodies to give the outdoor space the right ambiance and design. If you’re aiming to throw a lot of parties, then music is a necessity for creating a fun and social atmosphere.  You may also want to consider amenities such as lighting and other forms of entertainment.

  • Music – There are a number of types of outdoor sound systems that you can incorporate into your outside space which can be installed so that loose wires aren’t in view and the speakers are nearly hidden. Make sure you make your decision before the outdoor kitchen is installed so you can incorporate the speaker setup into the overall outdoor kitchen design.
  • TV – You can also incorporate television sets and screens into your outdoor area if the electrical wiring allows it. However, ensure that you place the screens in an area that will not encounter direct sunlight or rain, otherwise they could overheat and become damaged and it may be difficult to see the screen.
  • Lighting – If you’re planning on using your outdoor kitchen in the evening, then having the correct lighting is vital in setting the perfect atmosphere. Consider low lighting around the dining area (LED lighting kits work great for this); however you will need a brighter light by the grill. The types of outside lighting you can use are endless, however a good idea is to purchase solar lamps that can soak up the energy throughout the day and then light up in the evening. This will save you in energy costs and from having to install additional electrical wiring, while still creating a comfortable and ambient dining experience for you and your guests.
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Building Your (Perfect) Backyard Oasis

11 Ways to Cultivate Backyard Space for Relaxation

Imagine yourself sitting on the deck of an old mansion in a rocking chair, iced tea in hand, and big bunches of purple wisteria climbing the porch columns.  Now, you are outside an ocean beach house quietly watching waves and sand flow over your toes.  And now, you are at your own back door about to step into your yard.  Which one do you want to pick as your next weekend get-away?

It’s hard to imagine a regular everyday backyard as an oasis for relaxation.  But, a place of peace and beauty doesn’t have to be exotic, or expensive.  A simple change in perspective and a little ingenuity can transform your ordinary landscape into an extraordinary personal retreat.

Take a Walk

Sometimes the most dramatic renovations start with a simple change of perspective.  In order to discover relaxing space in an ordinary place, take a slow walk and a long look at your yard.  Give the entire landscape a discerning evaluation. Try to look at the overall layout like a realtor or guest would see it.  What assets or liabilities do you see? What jumps out at you? What are the first things you notice about your property?

Create Rooms

Make a list of how you want to use your space.  Start simple.  Think of creating ‘rooms’ of activity around your yard.  Even the smallest of yards can be maximized in a way that allows personal relaxation.  Yards that are low on space simply force designing homeowners to decide what matters most in life.  How do you want to live?  If pets have overrun the lawn, consider how to best ‘share’ the space and relegate messes to one place.  If you enjoy grilling out with friends, set aside some grill, deck, or table area.  Or go big and build an outdoor kitchen. Your lifestyle will determine if you need rooms for dining, playing, sitting, gardens, or pets.  Your list of rooms should reflect your lifestyle.

Know Yourself

Examine your preferences and habits.  If you enjoy a yard full of flowers because gardening is your lifestyle, then choose to add blooming space and lawn.  If weeding means de-stressing, and you have the time, go for the gardens!

However, if the thought of weeds or mowing keeps you out of the yard, design your space for minimal landscaping  work.  Skip the perennial bed and go for self-sufficient shrubs. Choose xeriscape alternatives for low watering and resource efficiency.  Or build out a large brick patio to cover more lawn area for even less maintenance issues. Or a nice wooden deck. Consult a local do-it-yourself store for low-maintenance ideas.

Design your Dream

One important aspect of outdoor space is balance.  Work with your tastes and budget to integrate your ‘rooms’ into one flowing overall environment.

Think creatively.  Create the illusion of space by installing gently curved pathways.  Or design a winding walk to a private, tucked away oasis.  A simple bench or patio rocking chair can provide a personal get-away when placed strategically.  Whatever you choose, pull it all together by following the balance of your overall plan.

Bring the Sound

Certain sounds add a sense of calm.  Wind chimes or trickling fountains bring soft ambient noise.  A birdbath also adds a splash of wildlife sound.  And, if an iPod is always in your pocket, go high tech and install stereo speakers throughout the yard. or at least bring out a small Bluetooth speaker that doesn’t even need to be “installed”.  Whether for private down time on the patio or entertaining around the pool, music adds ambiance and enhances the mood.

Play in the Space

If friends and family bring joy, design your yard with them in mind.  Use square footage wisely in order to create areas for eating or play.  And, if kids are a priority at your house, make sure their space is open for safe, fun playtimes.  Swing sets, enclosed trampolines, slides or covered sand boxes are classic and timeless favorites that earn their keep in kid-time spent outdoors instead of in front of the television.

Outdoor fun can also include a barbecue patio, or a grill on the deck.  If grilling is your game, make sure you leave space for good eats.

Bring in Nature

Do you like to see rabbits hoping along the edges of your garden or lawn space? Maybe deer eating from the trees you have on the edge of your lawn in the backyard? Or maybe squirrels and chipmunks are your thing. Brining in nature makes for a great way to enjoy all your yard has to offer. Even if you don’t have any woods or real wild places on your property, you can always help out the birds with a nice bird feeder. Or you can help out ferral cats by providing them with an insulated feral cat house for outside. Where ever you are, there really are ways to bring nature to you, unless of course that means bugs and mosquitoes!

Light the Fire

Big flames captivate and invite a gathering.  Bring magic to an evening and distract thoughts from everyday worries with a popular clay chiminea or brass fire pit on the lawn.  A fire pit is cheap and easy to construct, and if you have the time and money, you could even build a “patio” like area around your pit for even more easy living space. Fireplaces bring people together but always use caution.  Pay close attention to child safety and local fire codes.

Inhale Aromas

Let fragrance set a soothing mood.  Intentionally plant herbs and flowers for their aroma.  Sage, basil, thyme, and mint bring their own sweet smells.   Also consider adding the heavier scents of lavender, chamomile or sandalwood in your garden or even across the grass.  Or, if the garden isn’t your thing, light scented candles or essential oils to fill the air.

Put up your Feet

Backyard furniture is a must for your relaxation space.  It means the difference between sitting or standing, engaging or observing.  Look for a comfortable, quality table and chairs.  Consider a hammock for sleeping in the sunshine. Solid wood furniture like benches and swings work well on decks and between trees.   A patio glider or rocker can be placed beside the garden for a rest spot or tucked in an alcove for reading, napping or meditating.

Come Back Again

The next time an expensive retreat beckons, open your back door.   Spend the money for travel and airline tickets on a different dream and find a personal retreat to return to, right in your own backyard, every day of the week.

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Buying a House? READ This First!

Essential House Buying Tips…

Buying a house is a monumental purchasing decision that many people only make a few times or less in their lives. Fortunately, the process does not need to be complicated or filled with unpleasant surprises. Before embarking on buying a home, remember to keep these essential tips in mind.

Financial Considerations

No matter if the housing market is up or down, homes are enormously expensive. As a result, it’s no surprise that financial considerations top the list of what you should think about before buying a house. Understanding the true costs of home ownership is chief among them.

You should examine the impacts of renting versus owning. You’re probably aware that over the long term, it costs more to rent than to own. This generally holds true. However, homeowners need to be prepared to fulfill responsibilities renters are not liable for. All utility bills, maintenance, cleaning, property taxes, as well as mortgage payments are necessities managed by the homeowner.

Zooming in on the details from this list will help you get a better picture of what your prospective house may cost beyond the closing price. Asking for a full breakdown of utility bills, for instance, lets you calculate your average monthly expenses. Request a copy of last month’s utility bills from the owner, realtor, or get an estimate from local providers. You should look at gas, electric, water, and trash costs. Don’t forget additional services you may want like internet, cable, and lawn maintenance or winter care.

Property taxes should be analyzed the same way. Don’t rely on estimates from realtors or owners. A hard look at what was actually paid out last year, and preferably the last five years, shows you what the real property taxes are, and how fast they ordinarily increase.

Figuring out a home’s structural condition may save you additional money as well. Bring inspectors to look at the home‘s foundation, wiring, roof, and other vital systems. Also, make sure you get things like a mold inspection and inspections for lead paint and radon. Property solutions in Hua Hin can help you if you’re abroad, or search your local area for the country you’re in. If the owner has done recent improvements or remodeling, verify the value with an inspector, or ask to see the construction receipts. Although many sellers are honest, there always some who try to inflate their home’s market price by overstating the value of upgrades.

Getting to Know the Neighborhood

Learning about the location of a potential home is just as important as collecting information about the house itself. Remember to take a look at statistics regarding crime, demographics, and education in the area you plan to move to. Normal climate data and potential natural disasters your property could face are worth analyzing too.

You can find out about the general state of the neighborhood by talking to residents, discovering community groups, or pulling up old news stories. Serious crimes in the area will always appear in reports by police and media, while neighbors are likely to mention nuisances, or confirm pleasant features. Visit the area during the day and night to ensure there are no odd surprises that only occur after sundown, or during daylight.

Although scrutinizing a home takes a great deal of work, it saves on potential disappointment and expenditures. Putting in your research ahead of time pays dividends for as long as you live in your home.

 

4 Money Moves Before Buying a Home

Remember the days when the only thing you needed to do to buy a home was to bring some I.D. and stand in line somewhere?  The days of “E-Z Lending!” and “No Money Down!” have long given way to an era loaded with banks and lenders that actually require that potential homeowners have the ability to pay for the homes they’re trying to purchase.  If you’re in the market for a home, you need to make sure that your financials can withstand an underwriter’s scrutiny.  Check out the following four money moves that you’ll need to make before even thinking about buying a home.

Raise Your Credit Score

If you’re planning on applying for a mortgage, but your credit scores are barely there, or smudged, you’ll need to put in the work to raise them to a number that lenders are comfortable with.  Borrowers with high credit scores are rewarded with lower interest rates and less money required for down payments.  Pull your reports from all three CRA’s (credit reporting agencies).  Pay down your credit card debt.  If you’re thinking of paying off old debt or charge-offs, check with the creditor in question to make sure that once you pay, they report the debt to the CRA’s as “paid in full.”  Paid charge-offs are often reported as “new,” a notation that will result in a lower credit score.  Dispute any errors on your reports directly with the CRA’s.

Pay off Debt

If you’re carrying sizable debt, it’s going to negatively affect the amount of money that a lender is willing to lend you.  If you have a lot of revolving debt, pay as much of it off as you can.  Not only will it make you more attractive to lenders, it will save you money over time since revolving debt like credit cards carries much higher interest rates than mortgages do.  Paying off that money up front will save you thousands of dollars in interest in the long-term.

Save for (or be Gifted With) a Down Payment

If you’re going for an FHA loan, the minimum down payment required is 3.5% of the purchase price, provided you have a credit score of at least 580.  If your score is lower than that, you’ll need to put down 10% (another reason to get those scores up!).   Traditional loans can require as much as a 20% or more down payment.  Figure out how much you’ll need for a down payment and aggressively go about saving for it.

You can receive familial down payment assistance in the form of a gift, but make sure that it is accompanied by a “gift letter,” which will include the amount being given, the relationship of the person giving you the money, clarification that it’s actually a gift and not a loan, the property address, and the signatures of all involved parties.

Determine a Realistic House Budget

Everyone wants to buy a dream house, but that dream house can quickly turn into a true nightmare if you bite off more than you can chew in terms of house price.  Assess all of your monthly expenditures including your monthly take-home pay, outstanding debts, home maintenance expenses, taxes, school fees, utilities, etc.  As you can see, the list is long, so when you’re figuring out what you can afford for a monthly mortgage, include all of those other expenses in your calculations.

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BIG Berkey Water Filter Review

Big Berkey water filter review

The Big Berkey water filter is an extremely efficient and powerful system that removes contaminants from water to such low levels that they are not physically or chemically detectable. Water filters are made necessary by the unfortunate fact that tap water is never perfectly clean, and may have chemical, physical or biological contaminants, depending on where you live.

Additionally, since the Big Berkey is portable, you will be able to use it in any location in which you do not trust the water supply. You can for example take the Big Berkey water filter with you when you’re camping, and you can trust it to completely purify water from lakes and rivers. This Big Berkey water filter review will describe how the Big Berkey water filter works and how it can help you to safeguard your health.

BIG Berkey stainless steelPossible water contaminants

Regardless of whether you plan to use the Big Berkey water filter at home or “on the road”, using water filters is always a wise precaution. Water is regularly found to be contaminated by physical, biological and chemical entities that pose varying degrees of risk for your health. The most dangerous chemical contaminants are volatile and synthetic organic compounds such as pesticides and industrial solvents.

This kind of chemical is extremely toxic for humans and several of them are outright carcinogenic! Physical contaminants can be sediments and rusts. Biological contaminants are organisms that can cause some very serious diseases like typhus and cholera. Additionally, tap water may have a bad taste or odors for any number of reasons.

The Berkey water filter has been shown to be incredibly efficient in the removal of all of these contaminants to the point where they are no longer chemically of physical detectable in the filtered water.

Additionally, if you plan to go camping, you should of course know that lake and river water is not regulated at all, so it is even more likely to have dangerous contaminants. The portability of the Big Berkey water filter means that you can take it with you wherever you go so that you can make almost any source of water completely drinkable and healthy!

BIG Berkey disassemblyBig Berkey water filter features

The Big Berkey unit has a capacity of 2.25 gallons (8.5 L), a height of 19.25” and a diameter of 8.5”. The Big Berkey water filter includes either two or four Black Berkey elements or ceramic water filters.

The Black Berkey filter element is so efficient at filtering water that it has been shown to remove food coloring completely from water — that is an impressive water filtration efficiency! If you find this claim incredible, check out the video at the bottom of this lens and see for yourself!

The upper chamber of the Big Berkey filter has a re-cleanable ceramic Super Sterasyl filter that efficiently removes pathogens, volatile organic chemicals, synthetic organic chemicals and physical contaminants.

These ceramic water filters have two enormous advantages: firstly, they are re-cleanable, which means that you never have to dispose of them and buy new ones.

Secondly, they successfully inhibit mitosis, which is the type of cell division that unicellular organisms like bacteria use to reproduce.

This is very important, because if mitosis is not inhibited, the bacteria retained by the ceramic water filter would rapidly reproduce and clog up the filter.

Both the Black Berkey and ceramic filters in the Big Berkey water filter unit have been shown to remove synthetic organic compounds, volatile organic compounds, heavy metals, sediments, turbidity, and biological pathogens such as bacteria and cysts. These ceramic water filters are exquisitely designed: they have a domed top rather than a cap, which means that leaks in the top of the filter are physically impossible.

Now that is smart design!

 

These are not just vacuous marketing claims — check out this impressive list of independent entities that tested the water-filtering efficiency of the Big Berkey water filter:

  • ISO-9000: 2000
  • Hyder Labs (UK)
  • Spectrum Labs (UK)
  • WRc – Mednenham (UK)
  • Clare Microbiology (UK)
  • WRc Gwent (UK)
  • Loughborough University (UK)
  • University of Arizona (USA)
  • Thresh, Beale, and Suckling (UK)

The other extremely valuable feature of this filter is the sheer length of time for which it can filter water without having to replace the filters: each water filter can purify 3000 gallons of water, which means 6000 gallons of water in total. At a rate of 10 gallons of water a week, that means that you can go for 600 weeks without replacing the filters. That means 11.5 years of water filtration! This is what we call value for money. Just look at some of the other best water softener reviews and make the comparisons.

BIG Berkey Water FiltersBig Berkey water filter warranty

The Big Berkey water filter comes with a full six-month warranty. This means that during the first six months of your ownership, Big Berkey will replace or repair any of the Big Berkey water filter’s constituent elements that are malfunctioning. They even offer appliance repair in Calgary and other Canadian provinces for those living in Canada.

Remember that companies offer warranties when they know that things are extremely unlikely to go wrong!

Additionally, the Big Berkey water filter comes with one of the following: Sport Berkey Bottles, Berkey KDF Shower Filter, Berkey PF-2 Fluoride Filters, Replacement Parts Kit or Berkey Base. How’s that for extraordinary value for money!

Big Berkey water filter review: conclusion

The Big Berkey water filters stands out among other water filters on the market for its portability. You can take it with you wherever you like, giving you the ability to purify water regardless of where you are. If you go camping, the Big Berkey water filter will give you an extremely reliable supply of safe, clean and healthy water.

If you use it to filter an average of 10 gallons a week, the Big Berkey water filter can work for 11.5 years without having to change the filter! The Big Berkey water filter also comes with a six-month warranty and an additional item of your choice free of charge.

We hope that you found this Big Berkey water filter review useful. If you own Big Berkey water filter, please consider writing your own Big Berkey water filter review in the comments below — other folks will surely find your insights useful. Thank you!

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What is Stucco? How to Mix Ingredients

What is Stucco and How to Mix the Ingredients?

What is it?

Stucco is a cement-based plaster that is often colored and used either on the interior or exterior of homes. Stucco is often used when a brick or stone appearance is needed on a building, but the cost to use the original materials is too costly.  One of the benefits of using stucco is that it lasts longer than most traditional forms of siding like vinyl or wood siding. 

Stucco Ingredients:

The materials needed for Stucco, sometimes called “portland cement plaster” are plastic cement, sand and water. If regular cement is used, hydrated lime should be purchased also to make the plaster workable. No lime is to be used with plastic cement because it is complete as formulated.

Plastic cement is a specially formulated type of cement for use in plaster and sometimes masonry. Plastic cement contains all the necessary ingredients, other than sand and water, to make a suitable mixture for troweling onto walls and ceilings. Most plasterers prefer straight plastic cement to avoid possible confusion at the mixer for the ease of application. Some plasterers use a mixture of equal parts of plastic and regular cement. Either formulation is msuitable. A few plasterers still use regular cement to which Flintkote Type S lime is added in the mixer. Unless hydrated lime is added to regular cement, the resulting plaster may be difficult to spread and will not cling well to lath on walls and soffits. No lime should be added to a half-and-half mix of plastic and regular cement.

Sand

Three general classifications of sand, by gradation, normally are available from a dry material yard. They are concrete, sand, plaster sand and masonry sand. Concrete sand, being fairly coarse, would make a good quality plaster wall but is difficult to spread because of coarseness. Masonry sand is too fine for use in the two base coats of portland cement plaster because it may induce cracks in the plaster. A typical plaster sand used by almost every contractor in the area is called Oly #2, and is mined in the Felton area of the Santa Cruz Mountains (http://sandiegofoundationrepair.net/oceanside/). Oly #2. has a gradation that contributes to ease of spreading, yet is not so fine that it will induce cracking. Oly #1 is masonry sand, not to be used in the scratch and brown coats of cement plaster.

Plaster sand should be clean as well as properly graded. When sand is delivered to the job site, it should be protected against contamination from cigarette butts, scraps of gypsum board, dirt, oil and grease, paper or other harmful contaminants. One may use a cubic foot box to measure sand into the mixer or be guided by shovel count. Normally mixer operators use shovel count and add between twenty and thirty shovels of sand per bag of plastic cement or to the equivalent of a bag of half-and-half plastic and regular, or to a bag of regular plus lime.

Any water supply suitable for human consumption is satisfactory for mixing cement plaster. The most important factor is that one NEVER SHOULD ADD AN EXCESSIVE AMOUNT OF MIX!

Water

Use only enough water to produce a spreadable mix. Any additional water will weaken the finished plaster unnecessarily and may induce cracks.

Lime

If one elects to use regular cement, bags of hydrated lime must be purchased at the same time as the other materials. When adding lime to regular cement in the mixer or whatever tools you’re using, it is customary to use about fifteen pounds of lime for each 94 pound bag of regular cement. The plasterer should be guided by Table 47-F of the Uniform Building Code in this regard.

Lime is not needed to make plastic cement more spreadable.

Mixing Stucco

The minimum volume of plaster sand per bag of cement is three cubic feet. Note that a bag of cement contains one cubic foot of material. The Uniform Building Code (UBC) has established a formula for the first (scratch) and second (brown) coats of cement plaster. That data is found in Table 47-F of the UBC. A copy of this can be found on M&M Home Exteriors website. The maximum ratio of sand to cement in the first coat is four cubic feet of sand for each cubic foot or bag of cement. In the second or brown coat, a maximum of five cubic feet of plaster sand is permitted for each bag of cement.

Check out our reviews of the best cordless drills to use when using a paddle to mix your cement.

The preferred sequence of adding ingredients to the mixer is to pour some water into the mixer, followed by part of the sand. Add the necessary amount of cement, one or two bags, depending upon the size of the mixer. Add more water as required, then the balance of the prescribed amount of sand, with additional water as needed to make a workable mix. Be very careful about adding the last bit of water because it is possible to add too much liquid and make a sloppy mix. The danger of adding excessive water is that it would lead to possible weakness in the plaster wall, plus formation of cracks or checking in the complete wall.

Allow the plaster to mix in the machine four or five minutes to gain full benefit from the air entraining agent interground with the plastic cement in the factory. Entrained air is beneficial in improving workability of plaster and reducing the water:cement ratio.

 

Finish Coat (often called the color coat):

The finish coat, which is the third coat of plaster normally applied by plasterers, is manufactured stucco. Stucco contains all the necessary ingredients to achieve the desired color and texture except for the addition of water at the job site. As is true of the two base coats, only enough water to achieve workability should be added; otherwise pigments may migrate, and the result will be a mottled wall.

Another problem related to excessive water in the finish coat is formation of fine check cracking.

One should be very careful when mixing colored stucco that the same amount of mix water always is added to each batch of stucco, to prevent color variation. It is important that the mixer and working tools be kept clean and free of contaminating mold, dirt, grease or other offensive materials.

Application:

The scratch coat should be the thickest of the three coats. If the amount of mix water is controlled properly, one can lay on a half-inch of scratch coat successfully. The first coat must be applied with sufficient material and pressure to solidly fill all openings in the lath. Allow the scratch coat to take up slightly before scoring the plaster lightly in the horizontal direction only. The score marks in the first coat should be shallow.

The brown coat is considered a dressing coat to help level the wall to good alignment, as well as to build the base plaster out to a thickness of three-quarters of an inch before allowing the brown coat to moist cure and then dry in preparation to receive the color coat. Please use a stable ladder when working in high areas.

The brown coat should be brought out to proper thickness; troweled, rodded and floated to a suitable surface, straight yet sufficiently rough to provide adequate bond for the finish coat. Compaction with a shingle float is beneficial. UBC requires that the brown coat be in place seven days before the finish coat is applied.

The plasterer will decorate the surface of the applied color coat with a textured finish, which may be a dash texture, sand float finish, mission texture or other attractive surface decoration. Cement plaster should not be troweled smooth, nor should it be overworked with the tools.

Minimum thickness of all three coats must be seven-eighths inch over frame construction.

Curing:

Curing portland cement plaster is a matter of retaining enough water within the thickness of plaster to chemically hydrate the cement paste that provides strength and other attributes of plaster. Periodic moistening of the plaster is beneficial to keep water in the plaster membrane. Moistening should be done during the cooler periods of the day; in the morning, late afternoon and evening. If the wall is intensely hot, thermal shock with possible attendant cracking may occur when cold water strikes a hot wall.

Replacement of moisture in the wall by hosing is needed during hot weather, windy weather and during very cold weather. Moistening is necessary during very cold weather because cold air frequently is very dry air, and has the capability of drawing moisture out of the plaster at a rapid rate.

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