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DIY – How to Properly Treat and Maintain your Wood Deck

Old and new decks require a certain amount of maintenance to ensure they hold up to weather abuse, such as rain, snow and direct sunlight. While sun damage produces a dry, weathered look, constant foot traffic also ages a deck’s appearance over time. Rain, dew and sprinklers cause water damage that leads to mold, mildew and rot. Spilled drinks, food and old leaves stain the wood and alter its appearance. With proper treatment and regular maintenance, you can make sure your deck looks good no matter what you or the weather throws at it.

Testing New Decks Before Applying Finish
Before you apply finish to your new deck, test it with a few water drops. If the wood absorbs the water within a few seconds, it’s ready for finish. If you’re unsure whether or not to apply finish, check the finish’s moisture content requirement, and use an electronic moisture meter to test the wood’s moisture level. Protect pressure-treated wood with finish as soon as it dries to prevent sun and water damage and to maintain the deck’s new appearance. While pressure-treated wood holds up well to rot and insect damage, it does deteriorate over time without a weather-resistant finish.

Caring for Your Deck
Before you apply any finish, remove furniture, plants and other items from the area. If you can’t move certain deck or ground plants, soak them with water for protection against chemical deck cleaners. After cleaning and sanding, apply the finish out of direct sunlight, as the steady heat may cause uneven application and streaking.

1. Clean the deck.
After you move the furniture and plants, prep the deck for cleaning. Sweep the entire surface, making sure to clean any debris that’s caught between the deck boards. Avoid using bleach alone to clean the deck since it only removes mold and mildew stains without treating the wood’s deep fibers. Apply a regular deck cleaner to the surface, and rinse it clean with a hose. Pressure-wash the deck if it still looks dirty after using the cleaner. Wait two or three days for the deck to dry completely.

2. Sand and repair the deck.
Once the deck dries, sand down any weathered, raised or splintered areas, making sure to sand away any leftover stains or burn marks that can show through the finish. If the faucet near the deck leaks or the sprinkler heads need relocating, make the necessary repairs and adjustments. Perform one final sweep of the deck before moving on to the last step.
3. Finish the deck.
With the cleaning and sanding out of the way, make sure you apply the finish on a cloudy day or when the deck is out of direct sunlight. Make sure the deck doesn’t feel hot to the touch, as a hot deck could lead to failure of the finish. If the surface temperature exceeds 75 degrees, wait until it cools. Afterward, apply the finish according to the manufacturer’s directions. Wait until it dries before placing your items back on the deck.

Maintaining the New Finish
Depending on exposure levels, expect to refinish the deck every six months or so. Under normal conditions, the finish should hold up for a year or two if the deck was already in good condition. Some signs that it’s time to refinish your deck include:

The deck coloring turns gray.
The boards look weathered.
Stains set deep within the wood’s fibers.
Splinters and raised bumps form over the surface.

Even if you maintain your deck every day, you have to watch out for insect infestations, such as termites and carpenter bees. These insects burrow into the wood and leave piles of sawdust around the deck railings. Make sure to monitor for insects and take preventative measures to ensure your finished deck not only withstands the onslaught of sun and rain but also common wood-boring pests.

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DIY – How to Replace Damaged or Missing Siding

Compared to other siding materials, vinyl siding is fairly prone to damage. Intense heat and cold can both degrade vinyl. Cold spells can cause brittleness, hairline cracks and full-on breakage. When one needs to repair or install smaller vinyl sections, it isn’t always cost-effective to employ a repair professional. This type of repair can cost several hundred dollars. Fortunately, small siding repairs are fairly simple and easy, even for people with little previous experience in this realm. Many people never perform their own repairs because they feel these projects are beyond their abilities. With a careful, methodical attitude, successful repairs are possible for people of all different skill levels. Before beginning any step in this process, gather all necessary tools and materials.

01. Secure Matching Vinyl Siding
Depending on individual circumstances, this step is quick or painfully slow. Obviously, some types of textures and colors are easier to match than others. If possible, it is wise to save leftover pieces of vinyl after every siding installation. With extra material on hand, one can save a lot of time and effort. Siding supply firms can use samples to find customers matching siding. If all else fails, some specialty firms will analyze siding, make distributor referrals and even provide options for replacing discontinued siding.

02. Fit Siding Together
One advantage of vinyl is its flexibility. Vinyl siding will flex and move with temperature variations. Pieces of vinyl siding interlock snugly to keep out the elements. Siding is attached to a dwelling by driving nails into holes in the nail hem. During this process, it is important not to drive in nails until they directly contact the nail hem. Without room to move and change with climactic conditions, vinyl siding won’t last.

Failing to leave a sufficient gap is one of the most common mistakes made by those new to installing vinyl. For a long-lasting installation, leave a 1/32″ space between nail heads and siding. This is roughly the same width as a standard U.S dime.

03. Unlock Damaged Vinyl With A Zip Tool
Before a person can install fresh siding, they obviously need to remove damaged sections. Zip tools are simple tools used to unlock siding for removal. To use the zip tool, simply insert the curved edge of the tool’s blade beneath the edge of the overlapping panel, hooking securely on the back lip of the bottom edge or buttlock. Pull the zip tool down while simultaneously moving the tool from the panel’s end. Continue this process as long as is needed to separate the entire length of the siding panel. Repeat this process along the top and bottom edges of the panel being replaced.

04. Remove Nails And Cut Out The Damaged Siding
After disconnecting the top and bottom of the siding panel, the panel will flap freely in the wind. Next, use a pry bar to pry loose the nails securing the strip above the damaged section. With tin snips, carefully cut out the damaged vinyl section. This is another step during which it is easy to make a critical error. Use caution and avoid cutting the whole panels adjacent to the damaged section.

05. Cut And Install The New Siding Section
This is another step that requires careful execution. When engaged in do-it-yourself projects, it is usually helpful to focus on accuracy instead of speed. It is certainly worth taking extra time in order to do the job right. For an eye-pleasing final product, it is particularly important to cut straight right angles. Using a layout square can ensure cleaner, straighter angles. To minimize the chances of having an accident, use a utility knife that has a sharp, new blade. The section of replacement vinyl should measure roughly three inches longer than the removed piece, providing 1.5 inches of overlapping material on both ends. To ensure a good fit, trim approximately two inches from the nail helm on either side of the replacement section. Next, slide the replacement vinyl section into place. The replacement’s buttlock will hook neatly into the lock at the top of the section below.

06. Nailing In The Replacement Siding
Spacing the nails approximately 12 inches apart, position them in the center of the appropriate holes in the nail hem. Nail them into place while remembering to leave a 1/32″ space between the nail heads and the siding. Always use galvanized nails with heads at least 5/16″ in diameter. Make sure the nail shanks are lengthy enough to sink at least 3/4″ into the framing. After nailing, simply take a zip tool and relock the topmost edge of the siding.

These are the essential steps for replacing damaged or missing siding. The more one prepares for this do-it-yourself job, the better one’s chances of executing the project without any hitches. While text instructions and illustrations are useful, it can serve well to watch online instructional videos covering this topic. Actually watching someone perform this task is helpful for avoiding common mistakes and problems. It is also sensible to ask advice from acquaintances that have replaced vinyl siding or performed similar home improvement tasks.

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Top HVAC System Efficiency Comparisons for Homeowners

In the list of must-have features in modern homes, a long-lasting and efficient HVAC system ranks up there alongside sturdy foundation and dependable roof. The home’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning system determines the home’s livability regardless of the time of year. Aside from altering indoor climate to cool it down or heat it up, the HVAC system plays an important role in preserving indoor air quality. However, efficiency is an aspect of the HVAC system that more homeowners are paying attention to. In this post, we wanted to spend some time sharing some research we performed on various HVAC efficiency ratings and data.

What an Efficient HVAC System can do for your Home

The primary function of the HVAC system is to maintain thermal comfort inside the home. In warmer climates, homeowners rely on the air conditioning system keep their homes comfortable. During the cold season, the heating system ensures that indoor temperatures can be maintained to comfortable and safe levels.

The ventilation part of the system promotes airflow to preserve air quality. It is also the part responsible for eliminating excess moisture to prevent mold development, the spread of airborne diseases, allergens and unpleasant odors.

Controlling indoor temperature also ensures preservation of heat and moisture-sensitive furnishings and accessories. Air conditioning and proper ventilation promote a healthy indoor environment.

Types of HVAC Systems

The design of the HVAC system will vary from one home to the next, depending on the homeowner’s requirements and preferences.

Window Unit

When space is limited or when the home’s design restricts retrofitting with air ducts, window units provide a solution. This enclosed unit includes an air cooling system, an exterior heat exchange and an interior heat exchange. Window units are practical options for smaller rooms, but these installations can interfere with the architectural style, create noise when operating and cause unsightly leaks.

The Split System

The split system consists of an outdoor unit containing the compressor and the condenser while the inside unit contains the evaporating coil. This centralized setup requires a motor blower to force the air to circulate. Most of today’s homes are designed for central air conditioning using the split design with duct work located in the ceiling, basement or attic.

Packaged Air Conditioning

A packaged HVAC system is a pre-assembled unit that can be used to control temperature and ventilate specific parts of the house but not the entire house. A typical packaged unit will have a capacity of 400 cubic feet per minute of airflow for every ton of refrigerant. A larger tonnage means larger capacity, but it will require the installation of duct work.

How to Choose HVAC Systems

A new HVAC system is a big-ticket purchase: The upfront costs are substantial whether it is an all-new installment or a replacement of an existing system. Choosing the right equipment will depend on many factors.

ASHRAE Standards

The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers defined the standards for determining minimum ventilation rates, humidity and temperature ranges to make sure that enclosed spaces are fit for human occupancy. The HVAC industry uses the ASHRAE standard to recommend the type of equipment suitable to the given space. In residential buildings, the recommended rate of air change to maintain acceptable indoor air quality is .35 air changes per hour but not less than 15 cubic feet per minute for every occupant.

Home Features Affect HVAC Design

Clearly, the size of the home and its design features has an impact on the choice of HVAC system. A report from the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy states that the type of HVAC equipment installed will have a significant effect on system efficiency and maintenance costs. The report emphasizes that differences in local climate will affect choice of equipment.

Load calculation takes into consideration the roof style, ceiling heights and type of insulation among other factors. An oversized system wastes energy but will also run inefficiently because the system will not operate at peak performance. Home renovation guru Bob Vila recommends that the capacity of the system should not exceed 25 percent of the calculated heating load.


For HVAC equipment, SEER or seasonal energy efficiency ratio is an indication of how much energy is utilized for cooling. Higher SEER numbers mean more efficient systems with many of the newer models ranging from 10 to 18 SEER. Currently, 13 SEER is the required minimum in most states. The heating seasonal performance factor or HSPF measures heating pump efficiency.

The DOE’s Energy Star Program provides an additional framework for assessing energy efficiency of HVAC and other equipment. The program mandates the inclusion of an Energy Star label on most appliances. It is the bright yellow label attached to the unit that outlines key features, an estimate of annual fuel usage based on normal use and possible savings based on national energy costs.

Investing in Quality pays Off

HVAC systems come in a wide range of designs, features and prices. Opting for a system that offers longer warranties with a track record for durability and dependability may pay off in the long run even if the initial costs are higher. For these systems, energy efficiency, lower maintenance costs and design features such as quiet operations may be worth the extra costs.

According to, the average expected life of HVAC equipment are as follows:

HVAC components: 15 to 25 years
Furnace: 15 to 20 years
Heat pumps: 16 years
Air conditioning: 10 – 15 years
Thermostats: replace as the technology changes

Comparing HVAC Units

Choosing the right HVAC system for your home can be complicated given the range of choices available. The following table summarizes some of the essential features of the more popular HVAC brands.

Lennox CollectionAmerican Standard PlatinumCarrier Infinity SeriesTraneRheem
Noise generated by operation(decibels)5955657271
Compressor Parts & Warranty10-year limited warranty on compressor and other components, but some high-end models offer lifetime warranties.12-year warranty on compressor and 10 years on other parts.10-year warranty for the compressor and other parts although premium units may offer lifetime warranties.12-year warranty for the compressor and 10-year warranty on parts10-year unit replacement warranty and 10-year parts warranty.
Extra FeaturesSome models offer solar-ready capabilities and Wi-Fi enabled control features.The AccuComfort technology in American Standard HVAC systems is set up to adjust in fractional increments instead of on and off.Carrier units are weatherproofed with Weather Armor Ultra Protection to enhance durability and increase life span.Weatherproofing is standard on outdoor units. Higher-end units offer Comfort Link communications technology that can be configured to optimize performance and provide smartphone management.An onboard diagnostic system and fault history code is standard on some models. The system can be configured to send problem alerts to the thermostat.

How HVAC Efficiency Results in Savings

An efficient HVAC system is an investment that pays back over time. The initial costs will be hefty because it will include equipment and installation costs. Installation expenses will vary depending on the type of installation, geographic location and other restrictions. At the outset, it is important to work with a licensed HVAC contractor experienced in installation and replacement.

To understand how a more efficient system results in savings, consider this hypothetical situation:

A homeowner is trying to decide between a 10-SEER unit and a 14-SEER unit. Based on Energy Star information, the 10-SEER that costs 1500 will result in utility bills of $125 per month. The 14-SEER unit will cost $2300, but utility bills will be reduced to $90 monthly. By spending $800 extra on a more efficient system, the monthly bill is reduced by $35, which means the 14-SEER unit pays for itself in about 23 months.

Other factors such as durability and routine maintenance requirements will also affect return on investment. However, the most important decision factor has to do with how the HVAC system enhances the homeowners’ quality of life and enjoyment of their property.


Choosing an HVAC System

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DIY – An Entryway Retiling Real Life Project

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My family moved into our first home last December, and to say that we have a lot of projects on our to-do list would be an understatement. There are multiple projects in the works for almost every room in the house. Thank goodness it’s only a 1-story home.

Recently, we decided to give our entryway a makeover, starting with the tile. My husband grew up working with his uncle, who was a contractor specializing in floors. Lucky me, right?

The previous owners used some ceramic tile that was probably better suited for a mudroom. We wanted something a bit more glamorous and shiny. I picked out about 35 pieces of this 12×12 porcelain tile from Home Depot and a similarly light-colored grout and we got to work.

The whole thing took us about 2 days, which is impressive for us because we have a toddler and a baby living with us. We’re so happy with the results, and we wanted to share it with anyone who thought they might embark on a re-tiling project on their own. I’m here to tell you-you can do it. While it’s time consuming and meticulous work, it can easily be your next DIY project.

Mixing bucket

Tile removing tool
Wet saw
Grout float
Paddle mixer

1. Break up the existing tile using a tile removing tool-this could be as simple as using a hammer or a hammer gun. As you work, be sure to aim the hammer gun (or hammer) at the grooves in the tile, it will help it to break easier.

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2. After you thoroughly clean the area, measure the area and lay out the tile in the design you want. You should make sure that the full tiles are in the main space, while the cut tiles should be along the wall or stairs. The less you have to cut, the better.

3. Mix the thinset using a paddle mixer and a bucket. Thinset is what you use to actually set the tile. Pour the thinset into the bucket and slowly add water until the consistency is similar to pancake mix. Let it sit for about 5 minutes and mix it again.

4. Set the whole tiles first. Spread the thinset using the smooth side of the trowel, and then spread it using the notched side. Once you’ve set the whole tiles, it’s time to set the rest. Spread out more thinset, as evenly as possible.

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5. Using the spacers, set the remaining tiles and create your pattern. Since every tile will have a different design, pay attention to how they look in relation to one another. You’ll probably have to make more cuts as you get closer to the edges.

6. Once the thinset has dried and your tiles are set (this usually takes about 24 hours) you can apply a sealer. This is particularly important when working with natural stone, because it’s porous and can stain easily.

7. You probably already picked out your grout color-it should be a shade that complements your tile. Mix the grout with water (there should be directions on the bag) and spread it along the lines using the grout float. Don’t work the grout AGAINST the lines, but into the lines. Push it in and be sure that it fills in the lines.

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8. Once the grout starts to dry (it doesn’t take more than 30 minutes) you can wipe down the area with a wet sponge. The grout won’t FULLY be dry until the following day, but you can still clean the tiles.

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DIY – How to Install a Chain Link Fence

A chain link fence features a frame built from rails and posts. With time and patience along with the proper tools and materials, you can build a chain link fence around your home and yard.

Tools and Equipment
The caps are the sections that hold the fence’s structure together. Furthermore, after you install the frame, the installation process will require you to stretch the fence’s mesh across it. Before purchasing the fence materials, assess your current tool supply as you may need more items. The full tool list includes:

• Socket wrenches
• Post hole digger
• Pipe cutter or a hacksaw
• Pliers
• Rubber mallet
• Level
• Shovel
• Trowel
• Mason’s line
• Fence puller or a pull bar
• Plumb bob
• Line level

When you work on installation or assembly jobs that require you to use tools and equipment, be sure to wear safety glasses and work gloves for protection.

Material Details
Before visiting the home improvement store for your fence materials shopping spree, make a list of the products that you’ll need. Be sure to include:

• Pre-mixed concrete
• Gravel
• Chain link mesh
• Rails
• Posts
• Hinges
• Caps
• Brace bands
• Latches
• Tension bars and bands
• Tension wires or hog rings
• Tie wires

Fence Parts
Most home improvement stores sell mesh in rolls that are 4, 5 or 6 feet tall. Steel is the strongest material that you can buy, but manufacturers also make the mesh out of aluminum, which is lighter. The regular posts come in a 2-diameter size while the posts for your corner and end sections are available in a 2 3/8-inch size.

Installation Directions for the Posts and Rails
The first step is to dig holes for the posts. Make the holes three times wider than the diameter of the posts. Then, fill the holes with about 4 inches of gravel and compress it. Next, add 6 inches of concrete to the corner, gate and end posts. Check the alignment of the posts after every few shovelfuls of concrete. Once the holes are filled, set the posts into the wet concrete. With a level, make sure that they are straight.

To allow water to drain away from your posts, slope the concrete’s top sections. Permit the concrete to cure for several days before continuing your fence installation. Keep in mind that the holes for the line posts should not be filled with concrete. Also, do not set the line posts.

The next step is to connect the fence’s tension bands and gate hardware. You should slide the tension bands onto every corner, gate and end post. After you’ve added the tension bands, install the hinges and latch hardware. You’ll need the rubber mallet to set the end post caps. Also, slide a brace band over each post.

You’ll then be ready to install your fence’s looped, rail and end post caps. With your mallet, pound the looped caps into the line posts. Then, set the posts in the holes, but don’t fill them in yet. You’ll need to bolt a rail cap to the fence’s brace bands, and slide the rails through the looped caps. With your hacksaw, cut your fence’s rails to the proper size. After you’ve sized the rails, place them into the rail caps, and be sure to tighten the brace bands. Fill the line postholes with dirt. Once you have them full, pack them in until they are secure.

Chain Link Installation
For your fence’s chain link installation, you’ll need to unwind the mesh. The chain link will also require a tension bar. Be sure to slide the tension bar through the mesh’s links, which are at the end of the material. This step makes the end section of the fence inflexible. It will also create an attachment unit for the posts. Use your socket wrench to secure the tension bar into the tension bands. Then, pull the chain link mesh tight to prevent sagging. With a fence puller, stretch the mesh. The next step is to crank the fence puller until the fence’s mesh loops will not shift more than ¼-inch when you attempt to squeeze them together.

Be sure to insert the tension bar close enough to the tension bands for fastening. With your socket wrench, tighten the bolts on the bands. Then, repeat the hanging and stretching process along the rest of your fence. You’ll need your pliers to connect the mesh sections to the rails. Furthermore, you can complete the action by forming a hook out of one end of an aluminum tie wire. Loop the wire around the top section of the rail, and tie the wire to the mesh.

To finish your fence, run a wire through the mesh’s bottom loops. Be sure to tighten it around the end posts. Also, wrap it around itself a few times to complete the connection.

The Benefits of a Chain Link Fence
When you fence in your home and property, you’ll add a layer of protection. Furthermore, the enclosure will keep your children and pets inside your property and dissuade uninvited guests from entering.

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