Thursday, January 31, 2008

Start Planning for Your Backyard Garden

by: Gerry Fung

Water gardens are great focal points for any backyard.

With spring in the air, now is the time to start planning for your backyard garden. For many homeowners, a backyard pond is a perfect supplement to your existing layout. The trickling of water in the background is the ideal way to supplement the natural, serene and relaxing atmosphere that the outdoors should offer.

A pond or water garden will likely become the focal point for your entire backyard. Backyard ponds and water gardens will attract birds, butterflies, wildlife, and family members. Ponds are usually small and no larger than 3 to 4 feet in diameter, and often can be used to raise fish. At night-time, a garden pond can be lit up with both surrounding and submersible lighting. An extravagant light show can be produced by projecting underwater lighting directly onto trickling or falling water.

In the past, the installation of a water garden was a convoluted process that either involved the expense of a landscaper, or trial and error to perfect the art of pond installation. However, preformed pond kits are now available that can make pond installation relatively straightforward. Preformed pond kits are affordable, lessen the risk of mistakes, and come complete with all the accessories that you will need to complete a garden pond installation.

Before purchasing a preformed pond kit, make sure that it fulfils all of your requirements. How large of a pond are you looking for? Do you want to raise fish? Would you like water to trickle down a waterfall? How long is the warranty on the pond kit?

One preformed pond kit that comes highly recommended is the Algreen 180 gallon folding preformed pond kit. New to the Algreen line of products, this kit includes easy-to-follow instructions. The instructions minimize the effort required to install the pond, after a hole is dug. The pieces in the kit fit easily together and leave you ample flexibility to creatively position and landscape the area around the pond, according to your heart's desire.

The 180 gallon kit comes complete with both a preformed pond shell and a preformed watercourse that is manufactured from a revolutionary rubber/plastic composite (this composite material is guaranteed to be more durable and resist wear more than any other existing preformed pond kits). The kit includes a powerful 792 gallon-per-hour SuperFlo pump with flow control; this pump is used to feed varying flows of water to both the watercourse and the built-in fountain. The pump is purposely oversized to allow it to channel water to your watercourse and fountain, and to accommodate fish in your pond.

Up to 4 fountain heads are included with the kit, to allow you to vary your fountain according to your mood. An underwater light is also included free with the kit. This underwater light utilizes colored filters to shine luminous light from the bottom of your pond to accentuate the falling water from your fountain and/or your waterfall.

Small backyard garden ponds are usually low maintenance. The occasional debris from your pond can usually be trapped with a mechanical pre-filter, which is included with the SuperFlo pump. However, if you decide to raise fish in your pond, it is recommended that you increase your filtration capacity. Because the pump is purposely oversized, this can be easily accomplished by upgrading your pre-filter to a larger filtration device. Optional filtration devices include the mechanical and biological SuperFlo submersible filter, or the Algreen pressurized filter.

You will need to start planning for your water garden now in order to have it completed by spring. Before commencing any project, it is always recommended that you conduct research to learn as much as possible about the topic. Therefore, it is recommended that you use the early part of the season to read more about pond construction.

Read more about the 180 gallon granite preformed pond kit.

This article was provided courtesy of

About The Author

Gerry Fung is the Vice President of of

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

What is Laminate Flooring?

by: Jason Ashby

Laminate flooring mimics the look of traditional woods while offering easy installation and lasting durability. At first glance, it can be difficult to spot the difference between hardwoods and laminate flooring. What appears to be a natural wood grain pattern is really a thin layer of decor paper (a photographic image) under a tough-as-nails protective film that is glued and pressed to a high-density backing board. Laminate Flooring comes in an array of wood effects as well as stone and ceramic effects.

Laminate floorings main advantages are that it is easy to install, is very hardwearing and relatively inexpensive compared to real hardwood flooring.

Laminate flooring is a floating floor, which means it does not fasten directly to the sub-floor. Instead the planks are clicked together. This enables the floor to be fitted fast and with no real mess.

Laminate flooring has been around in Europe for around 15 years and has seen massive growth in the past few years. In 2004 over 750 million square meters of laminate flooring was sold worldwide this was an increase of 13% on the previous year. The biggest growth market is in the US with an impressive growth rate of 25%.

What Is Laminate Flooring Made From?

Laminate flooring is made up of four layers. The bottom layer is the stabilizing layer; this is what gives the laminate floor its stability. It is made up of moisture resistant resins.

Above this there is the core layer; this is made up of high density fibreboard (H.D.F.). This is saturated in resins to make it extremely hard. Most manufactures also add a moisture resistant resin to the core. This is important as it helps keep the flooring protected against moisture penetrating the boards.

On top of the core layer is added a high strength paper along with the decorative paper. It is this decorative paper which gives the laminate flooring its individual appearance, ranging from highly authentic wood reproduction, ceramic or stone designs.

The top wear layer is provided by the melamine resin, a highly wear resistant material that makes laminate flooring so hard wearing. This top layer is very similar to the top layer on counter or kitchen work tops but is usually around 40% stronger. This makes the laminate flooring highly resistant to scratches, burns, dent's, stains, etc.

There are a lot of laminate flooring manufactures who have products in the market place, each saying theirs is the best. Our advice is to stay with the leading ones these are QUICK-STEP, ALLOC, PERGO, BRUCE, and KRONOTEX. Theses manufactories have been around a long time and offer quality products that you can trust.

How Does Laminate Flooring Fit Together

Most laminate floors today fit together with a click system with the most common being the UNICLIC system as used by Quick-Step. This is extremely easy and fast to fit. The ingenious UNICLIC-system has a special shape of tongue and groove. You simply place the tongue of one plank into the grove of another at an angle and press down. Their sophisticated and very accurate milled shape makes it possible to create a very tight connection during the installation. The floor can be walked on straight away.

If you are laying laminate flooring over a concrete sub-floor then you will fist need to lay down a damp proof membrane (DPM). This is basically a sheet of plastic usually around 5mm which helps protect the Laminate from moisture. On top of this goes the foam underlay this acts as sound absorption and also helps even out minor irregularities in the sub-floor.

Most manufactories now offer a combined DPM and underlay along with several underlay's that have better sound absorbing qualities.

About The Author

Jason Ashby has over 20 years experience in the flooring trade. For more information visit "Laminate Flooring Info" at:

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

New Furniture Can be Comfy Too

by: Bob Benson

You’ve just moved into a new house and suddenly the comfy old furniture you’ve cherished for years—okay, decades – just doesn’t seem to work any more. Do you give up the comfy old stuff for new furniture? The truth is that you don’t have to choose. You can buy new furniture that is comfortable if you know how to shop.

Start with the living room. If you’ve had your couch, loveseat, or sectional for more than 10 years, chances are you need to rethink your furniture needs. Do you have a small child now who has trouble getting on or off of a couch that didn’t seem too wide when you bought it? Is your sofa apartment-sized to fit into your first place, but it seems out of proportion now in your new home? Take size and width of seating into consideration when buying. And the only way to know if it’s comfortable is to sit on it. If you plan to nap on your couch, lay on it right in the furniture showroom. Don’t be afraid to test the level of comfort.

Looking for a chair or recliner? Take your shoes off and sit in it like you would at home. If you usually tuck your feet under you, that’s how you should sit when you try out the furniture. See just how far back that recliner will lean back or just how hard the rocker can rock. While you’re trying out the potential new furniture, note whether it’s comfortable or not. If it’s not, don’t buy it. Move on. Furniture is not like shoes or jeans. You shouldn’t buy them with the hope of breaking them in for comfort over a period of time. The new furniture should be comfortable as well as functional upon purchase.

Moving to the dining area you’ll need to take into consideration your table and seating needs. A family of five probably won’t be comfortable squeezing around a breakfast style bar built for two. Likewise, a couple who seldom entertains and is years away from planning a family might not want to take up space with a table that accommodates eight. Know your needs. Know your likes as far as colors and styles. Then, have a seat. Again, it’s the only way to know if your new furniture is going to be comfortable.

No one really likes to lie on a bed in a furniture showroom, but if you are going to buy one it’s a must. Do you usually sleep on your belly? Crawl up on the bed and lie as you would if you were asleep. Roll around. How does it feel? Don’t buy the first one just because it felt okay. The next one might feel better and still the third might feel great!

If you are furnishing a home office, the same tips apply. Sit in the chair. Pull up under the desk. Pull out all the drawers and compartments you can find. Will the printer be within comfortable reach?

Keeping your house comfortable furnished doesn’t mean giving up style. And giving in to style, doesn’t mean that you can’t have comfortable new furniture!

About The Author

Bob Benson is the founder of Furniture online. You can check out our website at

Monday, January 28, 2008

A Guide To Skylights Vinyl Windows

by: Rene Knops

A definition and description of the different types of skylights vinyl windows that can be installed in a home. Skylights vinyl windows are a familiar architectural sight in most modern day homes. They are usually situated in smaller rooms that don't have a lot of light because of a need for privacy (such as a bedroom or bathroom) or in larger rooms that are leant a sense of majesty from having the sunlight pour in through a vast gap in the roof.

The reason it is important to have skylights that are seamed with vinyl is that they help keep cold air out and warm air in. However this can be a drawback if you live in a hot climate and the sun is beating down through your skylight vinyl windows all day. In hotter climates tinted skylight windows or ones equipped with automatic shades are more useful so that the cost of your air conditioning does not rocket sky high. Skylight vinyl windows are best utilized in colder, damper climates where insulation from the elements is needed.

The larger they are the better skylights vinyl windows look in any room. The usual size of skylight vinyl windows is between one and four square feet. Cubbyhole sized ones just look tacky unless they are highlighting a sculpture or a plant.

However sometimes you only have room for a small vinyl sealed skylight in which case it is recommended that you buy one that has a funnel shape that is wider at the bottom. This allows more light than normal to be filtered into the room from the skylight and then be spread and reflected over a larger area. Light adds heat. Make sure that this type of skylight is also vented to allow heat to escape if you live in a hot climate.

In essence there are three different types of vinyl sky light windows.

Vented Skylight. The vented skylight is more of a modern entity, as before the late eighties most skylights did not have the ability to open or close. These types of skylight vinyl windows can be opened either electronically or manually. The vinyl stripping around the frame of the window prevents them from leaking rain.

Sun Tunnels. Sun tunnels are essentially holes that are about a foot wide that allow sunlight through to dim areas of your home. They are installed to allow more natural light into bathrooms, basements, attics and even closets!

Skylight Window Shades - These are skylights that come with a lid. Sometimes it isn't always ideal to have the sunlight brightening your room especially if you want to take a nap or view a movie in the dark. These types of skylights come with a remote that allows you to adjust the amount of light in the room.

Skylight vinyl windows are so secure and water proof that the need to frame the skylight with wood is no longer necessary. The vinyl also prevents double paned windows from sweating. However if you prefer the more elegant, finished look of wood wrapped windowpanes they can be easily fitted around skylight vinyl windows to achieve a more traditional appearance.

About The Author

Rene Knops helps you get a clear view for choosing beautiful window blinds, shutters or window treatment at lowest prices. for Details visit:

Picking Furniture for a Nursery

by: Bob Benson

Furnishing a nursery can be a wonderful time for an expectant mother. Not only is it fun to prepare for the birth of a baby, but it gives the expectant mother an outlet for those nesting instincts that will soon kick in. A lot of well-meaning people (i.e. parents and in-laws) will convince you that you simply must have certain furniture for your new baby’s room.

Some of the furniture you will likely consider includes:

  • Bassinette
  • Crib
  • Changing table
  • Dresser
  • Rocking chair

Do you need it all? Only you can know for sure. Ask yourself, “What furniture am I really likely to use?”

A bassinette is handy for keeping the new baby very close. Most are portable so you can roll them throughout the house. If someone offers to loan you a bassinette, take them up on it as long as the mattress is clean and in good shape. You’ll only use a bassinette for a short period of time, so why invest in it as a major piece of furniture?

A crib, however, is a different story. If you plan for your child to sleep on his or her own at all, you will want a crib. It’s not as safe to borrow a crib from someone and while cribs are a type of baby furniture that have sentimental attachments, don’t agree to use an old crib because it was the one your husband used when he was a baby. Safety standards have changed dramatically and what was once considered safe furniture, might not be now. Look online to find baby crib safety standards. Make sure any spindles on the bed are placed close enough so that the baby cannot get his or her head stuck between them. Also, make sure there’s no lead paint on the bed. If you’re like most mothers, you’ll feel better about your baby’s safety if you buy new or one that was just recently used by someone you know.

Do you need a changing table? Mothers went for years without this piece of furniture. But, they are nice to have and at a convenient height that saves some back strain. It’s a matter of available space, available money and your willingness to bend over to change a diaper!

A dresser, if bought to last for years, would be a good furniture investment. Don’t waste money on a cutesy theme dresser that the baby will only outgrow when he or she starts to develop personal tastes. Instead, think about the rest of your house. Do you have a lot of mahogany furniture or a lot of white painted furniture? Buy a dresser that you can move elsewhere in the house if your child decides he or she hates it down the road. Buy solid wood. The furniture will last longer and it will contain fewer chemicals than cheaper veneer furniture pieces often include in the processing stage or in the glue used to hold pieces together.

Everyone thinks you need a rocking chair if you have a baby. Is it a necessary piece of furniture for the nursery? Not if you have a rocking chair somewhere else in the house. No mother or baby wants to spend all their time in the nursery anyway. Use rocking time in another room to give you both a change of pace – unless you just want to buy a rocker.

About The Author

Bob Benson is the founder of Furniture online. You can check out our website at

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Decorating Ideas for your Attic

by: Charles Kassotis

Do you have an attic in your house? Lucky You! You can decorate your attic however you like and create your own favorite corner in the house, or even an extra place for your children or your guests. Depending on your attics’ space and on your own personal taste, you can finally have an attic that fulfils your needs.

Need an extra bedroom? The attic can turn into a beautiful private bedroom for a friend that stays the night, a visiting couple, or a relative from out of town. Use light shades and soft fabric materials; you don’t want your guest to get tired and dizzy from the lively colors. Instead, create a pleasant, romantic atmosphere. You will need a single or, if there is enough space, a double bed, a small closet with drawers and one or two small bedside tables. A big, elegantly shaped mirror will add several points and will make the room seem spacious. If the room is already spacious enough, you can place a bedroom chair facing the window. Add a dreamcatcher or a wind chime and enjoy the results!

How about a playroom for your children? They would love to have their own, “No Moms Allowed!” space for their toys, their games and their imagination. You will need a soft, warm carpet to keep the room cozy during wintertime. Don’t carpet the corners though, as you will need some room to swap out for a lighter, cooler carpet for the summer days. You will also need large pillows or soft inflatable chairs. When opting for a playroom, use lively colors that will keep the children excited and happy. This room could have a small TV and DVD play set, videogames, board games, many toys, and puzzles, whatever a kid needs! Don’t place sporting material such as bouncers, trampolines and swings because the roof is too low in attics and the children might get hurt while playing.

Are you an artist? Even if the answer is no, an attic can make you one! Make your own inspirational studio. Don’t use a carpet this time. Color and material chips will stain it. If you are a painter, equip your studio with painting knives, palettes, art pencils, drawing sticks, charcoal, paints, brushes and canvas, paper blocks and rolls. If you are a craftsman you can create a wood art studio. Equip it with a large working table, hole cutting templates, curving tools. Place furniture with shelves in the corner to place and admire your artwork.

An attic can be your gym! You’ll need adequate ventilation in there, or a large window. Dress the room with a soft carpet and buy your gym equipment. Don’t buy large fitness equipment. Prefer many smaller ones, or a few multi training machines. You can also have light exercise tools like fitness balls, tummy trimmers, weight sets, yoga mats. A small refrigerator filled with bottled water or energy drinks is necessary for the attic gym room so that you won’t need to run downstairs every time you get thirsty. A mini stereo will enhance your exercise with power music.

There is no limit to your imagination about the potential use of your attic space. Sure, it comes in handy as a storage place, but what moments of joy can you invest in a storage place? With creativity and a little money, the attic can be your favorite room.

About The Author

Charles Kassotis

From Just an Attic… to Your Favorite Room! Visit at and Learn Some Simple Steps To Help Turn Your Dusty Old Attic Into Your Favorite Room In The House.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Aluminum Cushion Patio Furniture

by: Cat Greenbriar

Choosing patio furniture can be a difficult decision with so many options. There is one option that is comfortable as well as beautiful to accent any patio, and that is aluminum cushion patio furniture.

Aluminum cushion patio furniture is the most comfortable patio furniture . Plush cushions and soft upholstered fabrics make sitting in a chaise lounge a very relaxing experience. The fabric chosen for upholstery can be suited to match any type of décor.

Aluminum cushion patio furniture is also a great choice for durability. The aluminum hardware is treated to be weather resistant, and is also designed with comfort in mind. Cushions also are treated to be mold and mildew resistant so they can survive the elements when left outside.

Aluminum cushion patio furniture has some unique design elements to offer as well. Instead of a set of simple chairs, aluminum cushion patio chairs can be swivel chairs or rocking chairs that allow for maximum mobility as well as comfort. An aluminum serving cart can also be ordered to compliment any aluminum cushion patio furniture set.

Aluminum cushion patio furniture is a great choice for commercial or residential use. It is a great idea when you want you gets to have the maximum comfort patio furniture can provide when sitting outdoors or poolside. It is more decorative than traditional aluminum patio furniture, so you know your guests will appreciate that.

About The Author

Cat Greenbriar writes for PatioStuff at Please visit the site at for some of the greatest deals on aluminum cushion patio furniture sets. Also view some great selections for aluminum cushion patio chairs at and aluminum cushion chaise lounges at Cushion fabrics are available for viewing at

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Why The Best Flooring Idea Is To Install Hardwood Floors

by: Andrew Caxton

Hardwood floors have been around for hundreds of years. Wood floors were probably the first type of floor covering besides dirt. Hardwood floors can be one of the essential elements in designing your home. They offer a level of value and comfort no other flooring choice can. There are a number of benefits to owning and installing a hardwood floor.

One of the best things about hardwood floors is the lack of problem with regard to maintenance concerns. Because technology has allowed for the finish or stain of hardwood floors to require only sweeping for typical cleaning purposes, your floor will stay beautiful without the backbreaking scrubbing hardwood floors used to require. While the use of an appropriately recommended professional cleaning product will be required sometimes, a simple broom will take care of most of your cleaning concerns. It is important to note, though, you should never use anything on your hardwood floors that has not been manufacturer recommended. This helps to ensure your flooring will last a lifetime.

Durability means hardwood floors.

Another great reason to invest in hardwood floors is that they are environmentally friendly. Wood can not only be recycled, it is also a renewable source of material. Many of the products of yesterday like barns and old homes are recycled as hardwood floors. Moreover, wood products are incapable of harboring or collecting dust and other allergy particles. This means your family will suffer less risk of allergies or allergy induced medical conditions. Several health organizations endorse wood floors for people with health risks.

Additionally, hardwood floors are an excellent financial option. While some of the flooring is a bit more costly than the cheap alternative, hardwood maintains its value over time. It does not show the wear and tear that synthetic products do. This will only serve to increase your home's value in the long run.

There are many great reasons to invest in hardwood floors.

Finally, hardwood floors can come in a large range of shapes and sizes. In the past, there have been few choices in the hardwood floor market. Today's market, though, offers styles, colors, and species that will fit any décor. Hardwood floors make an excellent addition to any home.

About The Author

Andrew Caxton contributes adding articles to Your guide on home decorating and how to choose from hundreds of decorating ideas and tips. Andrew will inspire you to capture the look you want. More info in hardwood floors at

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Gardening Tips, Techniques And Plant Information

by: Roger King

Some of the most spectacular gardening is on the rooftops and patios of the world's largest cities. Today's homeowners and apartment dwellers do not have to discard gardening. In fact, they can create their own garden hideaway.

Gardening in small space means you plant in containers, choose plants carefully, grow up on trellises instead of outdoor, hang plants from something overhead. Herbs, vegetables, shrubs, and citrus fruits can all be grown in containers. More and more vegetable varieties are available specifically for container growing.

For small-space growing people can grow in everything from custom-made pottery to clay pots and wooden planters. Your gardening containers must have drainage holes at the bottom. Cover the holes with a section of window screen so the soil doesn't leak out.

Get a bag of dry, soulless mix for container gardening. You need to soak the soil with water before planting. This process can be messy, so plan ahead and do it outside if possible. Moisten only as much as you'll need for the current task.

Keep an eye on your gardening container. It can dry out quickly in hot weather. If you really get into it, you might want to consider a drip irrigation system. This is a network of plastic tubing that can be regulated to provide a constant moisture supply to your plants.

Most plants need an average of 1 inch of water every week. You should try to water your garden plants earlier in the day, so the sun can help dry off any water left on the plant. If you see a plant drooping, be sure to water it, because some plants wilt and do not recover if they dry out.

About The Author

Roger King is a successful author and publisher of Gardening and ideas to showcase your homes.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Shining Some Light on Solar Energy

by: Jim Fritz

Without a doubt, solar energy is the way of the future. Solar energy production is an extremely simple process to understand. A solar, or photovoltaic, cell collects energy from the Sun. A solar cell is a semiconductor device that is constructed using photovoltaic materials. It contains no liquids or chemicals, and no moving parts. Solar cells convert sunlight into electricity.

A solar panel generally consists of a series of individual cells, which are supported by a module that allows the cells to work in unison. The energy that is captured by the panel is stored in a battery. Solar panels generate direct current (DC) energy. Many solar energy systems have inverters in them which allow direct current (DC) electricity to be converted to alternating current (AC). Most consumer products such as appliances and electronics operate on AC current.

Unless you have a vast expanse of land to house an array of solar panels, it is unlikely that you will be able to power your entire home with solar energy. However, it is possible to power a single room in your house with a small array of panels fixed to the roof of your house. Multiply the wattage of each individual electrical device by the number of hours you expect to use them each day. That combined number will be your benchmark, or the bare minimum your system must be able to generate.

There are a number of options available to consumers that are considering converting to solar energy. A basic system that can be used to power a computer and a few other small items can be purchased for approximately $1000.00. Naturally, the price will increase with the production capacity of your system. In most regions, the price of an installed system will cost somewhere in the area of $10.00-$12.00 per watt.

Solar energy is one of a few truly renewable resources that can be used in energy and power generation. Every hour of every day, the Sun blankets our planet with enough energy to sustain our global energy needs for a year. As the technology behind photovoltaic energy advances, consumers will be unable to resist the urge to convert.

A lot of resources are being put into the development of solar energy technology. Most of the major oil and energy companies have entire divisions committed to solar energy. Researchers and engineers are spending countless hours trying to develop the technology today that will vastly improve conditions in the world tomorrow. It is no secret that we cannot continue down the path we are on. Fossil fuels are no longer a feasible option for energy production. The future is solar. The future is now.

About The Author

Jim Fritz has been a devout environmentalist for most of his adult life. He has been researching the benefits of solar energy for many years, and he is a contributing writer to – a brilliant online resource for information about Solar Energy, Solar Panels, Solar Consumer Goods and more.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

10 Ways to Get the Wrong Window Replacements

by: Bob Williams

There is no getting around it. Window replacement is a major renovation to your home. Besides adding tremendous aesthetic appeal, particularly in an older home, window replacement has immediate potential to save on electric, gas and oil bills. There is also the advantage of nearly 100% recuperative value of the cost should you decide to sell your home.

So become informed of the ins and outs of window shopping, so you don't "break" your budget, and avoid these ten window wrongs.

1. Replacing One Window At a Time Over the Next Ten Years.

This renovation should not be done piecemeal. It's better to do all the windows that need replacement at once, and preferably all the windows in the house. Room by room window replacement is cheaper and it can be easier if done slowly, a few at a time, but aesthetically, the house will not convey an organized, tranquil and cohesive design unless all the windows match well. What if materials are discontinued or become temporarily unavailable, or suppose there's not enough money to finish the house?

If you can't afford them all now, don't start until the money is there. But don't worry about buying replacements because once finished, they should not need replacement again.

2. Changing That Custom Window Space to Standard Window Space.

There is no need to downgrade that special custom window such as an arch, a small French door, or any unusual configuration. Installing plain single glazed panes, because custom windows are too costly, doesn't do justice to the unique features of the house with its different lines, corners, and spaces. Don't refrain from customizing your windows to fit the character of the house simply to save money.

One cost effective way to get a custom look without the custom cost is to take several standard stock windows and combine them into a unique design which enhances that special space.

The cost of customizing a window versus combining standard stock windows is vast. Although the options are more limited, the customer doesn't lose out on their designer detailing.

3. Not Matching the Features You Need With Available Options.

You've been living in this house for ten years so what's needed is obvious, so put some brain power into the problems and write down the features that are most important before visiting the websites or the showroom. The options available are truly endless with as many fashion statements on the market as any Parisian boulevard.

Bare it down to the bones first. Those multi-paned, lever-operated, jalousie windows in the living room are not only an eye sore, but a thorn in your side. They don't belong in your stately Victorian on the best street in New Orleans.

Make a list of the features you really want and formulate a concept of the perfect dream windows. Do this before perusing over the options so the focus stays on the needs of your home first, before the glitter dazzles you away.

4. The Easiest Thing Is To Buy All Vinyl Windows Inside and Out and Be Done With It.

Those TV commercials 25 years ago which showed how easy those replacement vinyl windows were to clean and open, did not show the vinyl after 20 or 30 years in a hard sun. It's true, vinyl replacements have improved, and are very energy efficient provided the vinyl does not deteriorate. However, I do not recommend all vinyl replacements at all and prefer instead a combined vinyl and wood replacement over an aluminum frame.

It has the easy maintenance advantage of all vinyl, but does not depend on the heat sensitivity of the vinyl for efficient operation.

Some people like wood at any cost. Although it requires a lot of maintenance and regular repainting, nothing breathes and feels like wood in any home renovation. For our money, we recommend an aluminum frame with wood on the interior side, and a vinyl coated aluminum frame outside for the maximum advantages of energy efficiency, aesthetics and maintenance ease.

5. There Are Some Great Deals On Dual Pane Windows.

And if you fall for those great deals you'll get a rude awakening. Something like two pieces of glass of questionable quality, with no special coatings or surfactants, glazed together to form one window. Slightly longer than one year later when that sub standard warranty runs out, condensation builds up between the panes and a black spotty toxic mold starts growing all around the sides. "What a pity", says the new glazier shaking his head. "This rot is anything but dry. You should have come to me earlier." If only it really was a good deal. The manufacturer doesn't even return those calls and the contractor has left the state.

True dual paned windows are expensive, and the options are numerous. There is a new state of the art version where the two panes are actually blown together into a single unit with a harmless insulating gas sealed between them. This completely eliminates fogging, condensation, and drafts. Other types need proper sealing and should carry a good low u-factor.

The U-factor is a durability test which determines how much interior heat escapes from the window. Conversely, a low Solar Heat Gain Co-efficient, or SHGC tells the consumer how much heat from the sun penetrates your windows.

If you bargain away your consumer protections, don't be surprised if that big renovation goes sour.

6. Customizing Into Complacency.

Even the best windows from the best manufacturers could pose operational difficulties and design flaws. Not that they were the top of the line to begin with, but those ads for vinyl replacement windows showing the easy tilt down cleaning mechanism proved difficult for many people to use.

Don't buy any windows that you haven't subjected to rigorous tests of your own. Just because a window is customized, doesn't automatically make it user friendly. There isn't a manufacturer in the business that hasn't made windows with design flaws and especially problematic are those custom features. Work them personally; don't just observe the demonstration. Have the family work them. Ask questions to the salesman. Any sticky wickets? Leave the windows at the store or at least those complicated mechanisms. Operation will only make them stickier.

7. Buying Windows Without NFRC Rating.

NFRC or the National Fenestration Rating Council testing has become an industry standard in evaluation of energy efficiency and performance. It's a shame to purchase windows without the rating considering it doesn't cost you anything but the manufacturers depend on it to sift out those less then ideal quality windows.

Also manufacturers who are cheaper but disavow their warranties after 1 year usually are those windows which don't perform well against their better quality competitors. In fact, many states now require the NFRC ratings in order to get a permit for window replacement of any kind. Check with the local council about building code requirements for your home.

8. All Window Hardware Is Basically The Same.

The hardware installed with your windows determines the ease, safety, and durability of operation. In fact, your windows are only as good as the hardware holding them together. Window hardware can hide cheap metal materials in the locking mechanism or sash. Try to get hardware that complies with California's comprehensive anti theft and forced entry standards. They require that any closed window is a locked window and is able to stay locked under heavy lever type pressure.

9. Who Needs Two Guarantees?

You need two guarantees to cover you in any eventuality and here is the inside story.

First, there is the manufacturer's warranty. This covers the windows from manufacturing defects, untimely wear, replacement parts or anything to do with the windows themselves. It is an extended warranty that is issued with top quality windows for ten to twenty years and sometimes longer. It should not pro rate the benefits over time due to the age of the windows, and should be fully transferable should you decide to sell your home.

Second, there is the guarantee from the contractor who installs the windows. This usually only extends over one year, although a contractor who is sure of their work and has a good reputation might be persuaded to offer more coverage, sometimes up to two years. In any case, this warranty is limited and covers only the work of the contractor regarding installation and not anything to do with manufacturing flaws of the windows themselves.

For instance, if the surfactant is mottled on that western exposure picture window in the master bedroom, don't try to redress the problem with the contractor. Call the manufacturer.

However, if mold is developing on the inside of one new window sill, get the contractor back over there as soon as possible before that warranty expires. Try not to get involved if there is a dispute over responsibility. Make them work it out.

10. It Will Save A Bundle If My Painter Installs The Windows and I Will Help

Fine, if you have the time and the painter has adequate expertise but unfortunately, a lot of mistakes occur when trying to simplify window installation.

Because window replacement is a more expensive and enormous undertaking than it seems unless it's only one or two windows we're talking about, or you've done it before, it's best to leave this to a contractor. Installation is the least of the expense of window replacement so it doesn't pay to cut corners here.

One important tip, when you hire a contractor to install those new windows, besides doing all the standard evaluations of his work, such as viewing his jobs over the past three months, getting reliable references, not paying up front for the job, etc., if there is a little extra money to spare, consider hiring an engineer to evaluate the installation. It's a relatively inexpensive way to buy a lot of peace of mind.

Even if you can't afford one, try asking the contractor during the interview if he minds if you hire an engineer to evaluate safety measures and installation. If he gets offended or refuses, don't use this contractor. The reason speaks for itself. If he says he doesn't mind or heartily welcomes the opportunity, then this contractor trusts his own work, and will no doubt work better knowing that an expert will be there, even if he isn't.

If an engineer is hired, bring him once at the beginning, and once before the last few windows are finished to check for compliance before the final checks are written.

Armed with these tips, you should get more for your money, and years of pleasure looking out your new "pretty as a picture" replacement window.

About The Author

Bob Williams provides timely advice to common home improvement problems faced by everyone. These practical tips will give you the knowledge you need to save time and money on all of your home improvement projects.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Quality Natural Stones In Interior Design

by: Erika Hansen

Natural stones have been used by man throughout centuries primarily due to their beauty, variety and durability. Today as before their role in interior design cannot be overestimated.

Natural stones can contribute to traditional and contemporary interiors in many ways, from marble wall or floor tiles to limestone windowsills, let alone worktops in the kitchen or bath surrounds and vanity tops in the bathroom. Natural stones also go well with other interior design materials, such as wood or glass.

Even a small piece of quality stonework can make a lot of difference. My favourite examples of stonework for the sitting room are hearths, windowsills and table tops. For the more adventurous, a multi-stone floor inset would easily be the centerpiece of any room. However, nothing beats marble tiled floors, better still if accompanied by skirting made of the same natural stone.

The key principle is to use quality natural stones with top aesthetical and technical characteristics. Quality of the natural stones is driven by a number of factors, the state of the quarry, quality of the block, quality of the machinery and stone grading process at the cutting factory, commitment to quality of the stone supplier who chooses the quarry/factory/stone. You should ask your stone supplier for advice on different grades of a particular natural stone before you make a decision based on quality and budget constraints. Based on my experience, quality should never be compromised.

Fire surround is a good example. In most cases, quality of the natural stone and craftwork play a bigger role that the design itself. There is only one step from a luxurious piece to a tacky one. My favourite natural stones for luxury fire surrounds include Statuario marble, White Cappuccino limestone and Rosso Lepante marble. Fire surrounds are made either of slabs or blocks. Most contemporary and some traditional designs can be made of slabs. Generally, a piece made of slabs costs less than one made of a block.

I always use an opportunity to mention marble windowsills. In Sweden, windowsills made of natural stones are as common as snow in the winter. The reasons for that are twofold, decorative effect and practicality (they are hygienic and easy to maintain). I believe that many interior design projects would benefit from the use of marble (or other natural stone) windowsills.

I strongly believe that the use of quality natural stones in interior design is an investment that pays off.

About The Author

Written by Erika Hansen. Erika provides interior design advice to Stoneville (UK) Ltd. More info on natural stones can be found at

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Ideas About The Code On Deck Railings

by: Andrew Caxton

The code on deck railings in urban areas was designed to protect homeowners, home purchasers, and visitors to homes from harm. Some examples of general codes on deck railings are the distance from the ground dictating the presence of a railing, the distance between balusters, and the height of the railing.

An example of a code on deck railing is Loudoun County, Virginia. Any structure built in the county must comply with the Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code, which is accessible for free on the internet. In addition to offering deck regulations, this code spells out the rules for all aspects of building including structural requirements, mechanical issues, plumbing topics, and fire codes. This helps you obey the laws of Virginia. The Department of Building and Development reviews the plans and permits submitted to ensure they comply with the code.

There are many different ideas about the code on railing in various parts of the country

In addition to checking with the building code, it is important to check both zoning requirements for your area and health department requirements before building. You must also apply for and obtain a permit before building your deck. The code on deck railing in this area specifies that decks may only be a single level and only for residential use. Joist overhangs cannot be more than two feet. Additionally, decks may not have screened porches, roofs, hot tubs, or gazebos. Moreover, decks cannot be detached from the house.

The code on deck railing can be harmful at times. For example, some people don't like the railing on the deck too high because of the obscured view. In most areas, the railing cannot be folded down in any way. This leaves the homeowner with a real problem. The code is essentially the law. Going against the code is breaking the law. It means all sorts of consequences including things like court appearances and fines. However, if the homeowner still has a real problem with the code, they must find a way around it. One way around the issue with high deck railing is to go with a cable railing system. While you are still required to have a top rail with this system, the cables disappear from just a few feet away, so the view remains unobscured. The code on deck railing is essential for safety, but can sometimes be a problem for homeowners.

About The Author

Andrew Caxton contributes adding articles to Andrew publishes designs and ideas for succesful deck railing plans. You can reach more articles of Andrew on deck railings at

Monday, January 14, 2008

Soundproofing a Garage or Basement for a Rock 'n' Roll band

by: Dr. Bob Orther

This is by far the most asked question at Soundproofing America Inc. How do I soundproof my garage, basement, or a bedroom in my single family house or condo so my 4 piece rock band can practice and record and not bother the neighbors. If I had a dollar for every time I was asked this question, I would be in the Bahamas right now, instead of writing this narrative.

Many factors need to be considered prior to beginning your studio or practice room-soundproofing project. Some of the questions you should be asking yourself are, what type of amplification will the band be using, are the drums going to be acoustic and miked or are they digital. Are we going to be recording live late at night or are we going to be doing "line in" recording only? These questions and many more need to be considered before the actual construction begins.

If live recording and rehearsal are the plan, then maximum soundproofing will be needed. The most effective way to soundproof a garage, basement, or bedroom is to actually construct a room within a room (see and download the booklet "Acoustics 101" this is a wonderful resource for the home studio builder. Their ideas are solid and pertinent to and studio soundproofing project.

The room within a room concept utilizes the sealed dead air space that is captured between the inner walls and the outer walls to help greatly with the soundproofing endeavor. It is probably easiest to frame the walls on the floor and then tilt them up into place thus making dry walling the outside of the walls much easier. It is also highly recommended that another ceiling be joisted out for the room within a room, however, this is oft times impossible due to space constraints. In this case, the existing ceiling and ceiling joists may be used as the ultimate ceiling for the studio, provide that it is adequately soundproofed with materials such as the American vinyl or a combination of American mat and American vinyl. I will elaborate on these materials, as we get further into this study.

Once the walls are framed out and the right amount of "Dead air space" is determined, then it is time to install the soundproofing

The first order of business is to consider what needs to be done to the wall cavities prior to installing a barrier and finally the wallboard. I like to line the inside cavities with a closed cell vinyl nitrile foam mat such as American Mat. This mat (generally ¼" thickness) is adhered to the inside cavity walls as well as the studs and joists (if these areas are opened up) Keep in mind that the American Mat is used to line the cavities only, not to fill them up. If thermal insulation is needed, use products such as rock wool, mineral wool, cut wool fibers, or my favorite, Roxul.

Roxul is a great thermal rock wool based bat type insulation that has great soundproofing qualities. If thermal insulation is a requirement for the practice room or studio, then Roxul is the way to go.

Now we come to a crossroads, it is time to determine if decoupling the walls using resilient channels or American Sound clips is a necessity. De coupling is used when impact transmission or low frequency noise is a factor. Impact would come primarily from the drums (acoustic type) or the bass amplifier. However, if the band is using Marshall high powered amps (50 watt Plexies with 4 X 12 cabinets for example) along with miked acoustic drums and an Ampeg bass system, then decoupling is most likely necessary. These methods and procedures will be explained in later narratives or can found by calling Soundproofing America on our toll free line.

If decoupling were determined to be unnecessary, then the next step would be to find a good barrier material such as American vinyl (which is a high grade mass loaded vinyl barrier). This barrier could be stapled directly to the studwork on a wall assembly or directly to the joists. This is a method that is used if cost or space constraints are factors. If the barrier material is to be stapled directly to the stud or joist framing then it is essential that the seams be over lapped, caulked (using OSI acoustical caulking compound) and taped with either a lead tape or a heavy-duty seam tape. These can also be had from American Soundproofing Inc.

Once these areas are treated with the Mass Loaded vinyl (MLV) then it time to decide whether or not it is necessary to float the walls and ceiling to prevent the impact and heavy bass sounds from passing through the solidly barriered walls and ceiling. For more information on ceiling and wall floats, please call the toll free number.

The last step for your home studio is to layer over the mass loaded vinyl barrier with a fresh layer of 5/8" fire code drywall or sheet rock. It is always advisable to butter the edges of the last layer of drywall with the acoustical caulk. You'll want to gain every STC (sound transmission class) point you can when trying to make your new studio as quiet as possible. Finally you will tape mud and paint the new drywall. We here at Soundproofing America Inc. are also musicians and we understand the plight of our fellow players. Please feel free to call us anytime for free studio soundproofing advice. We're here to help; it's not about making money off our fellow musician friends.

Call Toll free (877) 530-0139

About The Author

Dr. Bob Orther is the senior Technical Advisor for Soundproofing America, Inc. Please visit us at

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Invisible Causes of Water Damage

by: Kimberly Duncan


Plumbing equipment usually develops leaks due failures in joints or hose attachment.

Internal wall leaks are even harder to discover and can cause major damage.


The common problems in pipes are blocked toilets and drains (especially kitchen drains), failure of garbage disposals, and roots in sewer lines .


Unpredictable summer storms, floods, and other water accompanied disasters such as hurricanes, blizzards, and tornados are some more reasons for water damage.

Heating Systems and Air Conditions:

Neglecting air conditioners leads to poor performance, expensive operating costs and moisture issues. Moist cooling ducts promote mold and other water-borne bacteria.


Water heaters, washers, and dryers tend to crack over time, allowing water to trickle. Although these appliances will start leaking slowly, this leak can grow and cause a flood when completely failed. Hoses tend to deteriorate inside out, resulting in leaks as well.


A wet basement is caused by moisture accumulations that drip through the foundations. When moisture evaporates, it increases humidity even if there are no leaks or standing water. Another common cause is condensation on the cold concrete walls and floors during more humid time periods.

It is recommended to inspect your home periodically to ensure that it stays in good condition and keeps its real market value. A periodic inspection will also help preventing high-costs restoration projects after water related disasters.

More information on visible and invisible causes of water damage is available on

About The Author

Kimberly Duncan is an editorial staff member of RestorationSOS™, a leading restoration services provider for water and fire damages.

To learn more about water damage restoration, visit

Friday, January 11, 2008

The Causes of Fire Damage

by: Kimberly Duncan

While some causes of fire are general and can occur anywhere, other causes are more specific for certain rooms.

General Causes of Fire


Don't underestimate the fire risk from electricity just because there is no flame involved. The over warming of hot plugs and sockets and blown fuses may start a fire.


Most cigarettes related fires start because the cigarette is not put out completely. Additional common causes include falling asleep with a cigarette and using improper ashtrays.


Even a tiny candle flame can have upsetting consequences. Many candle related fires start due to draughts that lead fire to catch burnable items and tilting candles that are not placed in suitable holders.

Room by Room Causes of Fire

The Kitchen

The kitchen contains many hazards that can cause fires. The common combination of open fire, grease, electricity, and water is very dangerous. Grease fire is a common cause for fires in the kitchen is and is usually caused by fry pans. This type is dangerous as it can set the whole kitchen on fire. Additional fires are dry cooking fires and oven fires. These types are easy to control and they are not likely to cause damage. Kitchen appliances may also cause fire if not maintained well.


Bedroom fires are usually caused by misuse of electrical devices. Electrical fires can start due to overloading extension cords and the use of electric blankets and warmers with no lab-approval. Heaters are a concern during winter if they are recklessly placed near linen, clothes, and other flammable items

Attics, Basements and the Garage

Popular as storage areas these places usually contain fire hazards such as gasoline and other flammable liquids. Old clothes, papers and other combustible items are also hazardous and should be stored safely. Many of the electrical fire hazards are also located in these areas. Worn cords, electrical boxes and other signs of electrical trouble should be treated immediately.

Heating Devices and Fireplaces

These are planned to generate heat and may be hazardous if not maintained well. Operating the fireplace without a screen will allow sparks to fly into the room and cause fire. Other causes of fire are combustible items such as wallpaper, curtains, and clothing that are left without maintaining adequate clearance around the heater.

About The Author

Kimberly Duncan is an editorial staff member of RestorationSOS™, a leading restoration services provider for water and fire damages.

To learn more about water and fire damage restoration, visit

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Modern Bedding Ideas

by: Patricia Bowlin

Modern bedding isn't just beautiful- it can also be very practical, extremely durable and quite affordable. Even luxury bedding for the modern bedroom doesn't have to break your bank account.

Our busy lives today mean there is little time to spend in traditional homemaking. Modern bedding has to fit into our modern lifestyles and provide for easy care as well as comfort. After a long day at the office, no one wants to come home and sleep on scratchy bedding. On those precious days off work, no one wants to spend all their time doing laundry and ironing pillow cases so that they have no wrinkles. With today's modern fabrics, whether it's 100% Egyptian cotton, or blends, it's just not necessary to spend lots of time spend caring for your bedding. Of course, doing laundry does take time, but you shouldn't need to spend any extra time making bedding for the modern bed look nice.

One of the most popular ways to make your bedding modern is to choose Dwell. The Dwell line was created by its designer and founder, Christine Lemieux, in 1999 because she felt there simply were too few modern, colorful, beautiful graphics and other designs in quality bedding for the modern home.

She designs bedding using very bright colors such as lime, butter yellow, chocolate, charcoal and ocean blue to create patterns like trellis, awning stripes featuring broad, bold striping, thin stripe which uses various widths of striping to create outstanding bedding patterns and dot or cube. Along with these bold graphic patterns, solid sheets and border sheets allow mix and match to create a very modern look for the bedroom.

An absolutely fabulous choice in luxury bedding for the modern room comes from Amenity. Using 400 thread count 100% cotton to create the duvet and pillow shams, the Twig design in bright blue peacock or cocoa, uses a solid background to highlight the large graphic of a tree.

Drift is another great design which features a graphic of a dandelion head against the tan or cocoa background. The Amenity Leaf design places large leaves on the solid background colors. The pillow shams for each of these selections are solid in the same color as the background of the duvet. Very modern in appearance, these bedding choices make the modern bedroom's focal point the bed. This gives a clean, uncluttered look to the bedroom by focusing attention on the bedding with these bold, modern looks.

Nygard International Home Bedding has a very modern appearance that is so modern it is almost retro!

The Coco bedding from Nygard uses "urban suede" which is a type of faux suede in large square of cocoa and black to create a great bedding set. The faux suede is created of 97% cotton and 3% spandex resulting in fabric that is soft, plush and the best part is that it is machine washable! The large blocks of color break the bed into quarters and the tailored styling make a bold, modern statement. This top quality bedding is extremely affordable- the prices are much lower than you would expect for material that looks just like suede.

Western Bedding has created an outstanding modern set of bedding that has a very Zen element.

Using black and white in tailored designs, Western Bedding has created a very striking bedding set. The comforter, created from 50% cotton and 50% polyester has solid black jacquard on one side and the reverse is a black and white graphic print. The geometric jacquard weave provides a sense of texture and is repeated in the bed skirt. The pillow shams are crisply tailored and feature cording details. The sheets and pillow cases are 220 thread count 100% cotton percale in bright white with a black twist cord detail. Add decorative pillows with engineer-sharp geometric appliqu‚s and buttons to complete the ensemble.

When decorating with modern style bedding, especially with bold colors and geometrics, it is very important to keep a modern, uncluttered look in the bedroom. Avoid mixing modern linens with antique furnishings- the effect will simply not look attractive. Keep your other items organized and mostly out of site as well to keep with the theme.

Platform beds and waterbeds lend themselves perfectly to modern choices in bedding. If you select a two-color geometric for your bedding, choose modern accessories in those same colors, but also add a few carefully selected accents in another bold, bright color.

For example, if you select Western Bedding's black and white modern ensemble, consider adding a red throw pillow and a red lamp to your modern black and white bedroom. The effect will be absolutely stunning!

The result of having a modern bedroom will be an inviting but crisp, clean bedroom that has you feeling more organized and on top of the world!

About The Author

Patricia Bowlin makes it easy to create a bedroom with flair! Find countless Free tips, ideas and information here on choosing all of your bedding by visiting now

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Cleaning A Child's Bedroom - 15 Minutes A Day

by: Jess Knutson

Here is a simple plan to help your child/teen keep their rooms clean. Don't worry if the room is a disaster. Just set the timer for 15 minutes each day and get started. Continue clearing clutter each day until you find the tops of the dressers and the floor. By the end of the week, you will be amazed at the progress! When you are ready… start the weekly plan.

During the first few weeks, you may want to assist (or at least supervise). Start by making sure that everything in the room has a home. Don't worry about perfect organization, just get the surfaces cleared off.

Supplies Needed

Trash bag

Laundry basket

Donate bucket - get rid of the items that they no longer love!

Assorted baskets or buckets for smaller items

Labels - labels make organizing easier

Every Day

Make the bed - have your child do this before the daily task


Clear all surfaces (dressers, table, nightstands, etc.)


Dust all surfaces - this should be easy since they are all cleared off.


Clear the floor (just the visible parts for today)


Sweep or vacuum


Pick a spot - you or your child can pick one spot for the day. Make a list of all the problem spots in the room and slowly check them off.

- Under the bed

- Behind the dresser

- One dresser drawer

- One shelf

- _________________

- _________________

- _________________

- _________________


Change sheets and bring all laundry to laundry room


Free Day - you can also use this as a make up day

Each week, make a mental note of the items that end up scattered about. Use baskets, boxes, shelves or create your own solution to keep these items together. You may need to try several different solutions before you find one that works. If something seems to be working... leave it alone!

Each day, encourage your child to perform the scheduled tasks. Give them a time limit and use a timer (15 minutes should be enough time). Don't be too picky, just try to guide them. They will soon figure out that if they clear their dresser on Monday and throw everything on the floor, that on Wednesday they will have to pick that stuff up AGAIN when they clear the floor.

Remember... it only takes 15 minutes per day to keep your child's bedroom neat and clean.

About The Author

Jess Knutson provides parenting and WAHM information to stay at home moms. Visit for free newsletters, business listing and more.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Candle Holders

by: Gerald Hopkins

Your home’s décor can be enhanced by the use of beautiful, yet functional candle holders placed around the house. Even an outside garden looks pretty with sturdy candle holders. Paired with a scented candle, candle holders make the perfect gift for the hard to buy for. Children can even make candle holders that are perfect for gift giving. In addition, candle holders come in all shapes and sizes and can fit virtually anyone’s personal taste.

There are numerous types of candle holders available to beautify your home. There are companies that cater especially for those who want to purchase candle holders. To quickly and easily decorate a blank wall, look at some of the scrolled ironwork candle holders. Handcrafted wrought iron candle holders make a stylish addition to a table or a centerpiece. These types of candle holders can be bought to hold one or several candles. Try placing long tapered candles in candle holders to decorate a mantel.

Candle holders also make great gifts. Just about anyone can appreciate a pretty candle holder with a nice scented candle. Candle holders are certainly a one size fits all gift. In addition, candle holders can be bought in a wide variety of sizes and in just about any material. Small glass candle holders are good for individual candles. Try making a gift basket filled with several small candle holders and small candles. Find a different candle scent for every month of the year.

Kids can enjoy making a variety of candle holders for gifts, too. These easy-to-make crafts make a perfect rainy day activity. Try helping your child make these candle holders one day. Give these homemade gifts to teachers or grandparents for a truly personalized gift.

Here are some easy to make candle holders that children can enjoy with a little help.

Supplies needed:

Small tea candle

Empty baby food jar

Colored tissue

Glue and paintbrush

Make a candle holder just the right size for a tea light candle out of a recycled baby food jar. Remove the label from the baby food jar and clean thoroughly. Give your child scraps of brightly colored tissue paper and glue mixed with a little water. Have your child brush the glue on the baby food jar and glue the tissue in pace. When the jar is completely covered with tissue paper, go over the jar again with another layer of glue. Add a tea light candle and you have just created a perfect candle holder gift.

Here is another idea for making a unique candle holder out of soup or vegetable cans.

Supplies needed:

Empty soup can

Hammer and nail

Remove the label off of the can and clean well. If the label on the can is difficult to remove, you can soak the can in warm soapy water and continue to remove the label. After the can is clean, fill it to the top with water and place in the freezer. When the water is frozen, use a hammer and a nail to pound holes into the can. The ice inside the can will help it hold its shape. Be creative with the design. Let the ice melt and place a small candle or tea light candle inside. These candle holders look pretty outside around the holiday season.

About The Author

Gerald Hopkins is an expert author at, a site dedicated to holders of all types. Visit us at today.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Caring For Your Vinyl Siding

by: Henry Gallant

A low maintenance and durable material, vinyl siding is an increasingly popular home exterior. Even though it is a low maintenance material, you will still want to clean your vinyl siding from time to time. Just make sure you know about the best cleaning methods before you get started.

Simple maintenance cleaning of your vinyl siding is fairly straightforward. Use a long-handled brush with soft bristles or a soft cloth to wipe it down with soap and water. If your vinyl siding has textured surfaces to it, you will want to use only the brush with soft bristles so as to avoid wiping stains into the grooves with a cloth. Start with the vinyl siding at the bottom of your house and work your way up. This will help to prevent streaking from the soapy water running down your house. If you have other materials, such as brick, on parts of your home, cover them so that runoff from your vinyl siding will not affect it. Lastly, always make sure you rinse the area before the cleaning solution dries.

If you want to speed the process of cleaning your vinyl siding along, you can buy or rent a power washer. First of all, however, make sure you have read the instructions on the power washer thoroughly. Second, always make sure you use the power washer at eye level. If you try to point upward, you may end up with water and cleaning solution behind the vinyl siding. These can later leak and cause streaks that can eventually lead to decay.

From time to time, you may find spots of mold or mildew on your vinyl siding. If these spots are small, then you can simply use a name brand household cleaner. Just always be sure to test it on a small portion of your vinyl siding in an inconspicuous place to make sure it will not damage it at all. If, however, the spots of mold or mildew are a little larger, you can use a solution of 30% vinegar and 70% water. Another common homemade solution is mixture of powdered laundry detergent, powdered household cleaner, liquid bleach, and water. It is best to just find the one that is most convenient and effective for you.

Not all vinyl siding stains, however, are mold or mildew. You may end up with dirt, soot, or even animal stains on the outside of your home. If that is the case, there are a number of general cleaners that are approved for use on vinyl siding. Check your local store for simple household cleaners, and then read the containers carefully to find out if they are effective and safe for use on vinyl siding and specifically on whatever the stain is that you have found on your vinyl siding.

Increasingly, vinyl siding is a common home exterior. It is low maintenance, attractive, and easy to install. You may, though, from time to time need to clean your vinyl siding in order to keep it in good working condition. Before you do, make sure you understand what is necessary and what the proper procedure is so that your vinyl siding will look good and last a long time.

About The Author

Henry Gallant is an expert author at, a comprehensive resource on vinyl siding. Visit to get more information for your next vinyl siding home project.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

8 Tips To Extend The Life Of Your Carpets

by: John Murray

Carpets are a big investment and you want to make sure they last as long as possible. Follow these 8 tips to extend the life of your carpets.

1. Vacuum

Vacuum, vacuum, and then vacuum some more. It's the easiest and cheapest thing you can do to extend the life of your carpet. That's because vacuuming often removes the fine grit that falls deep into the carpet and causes wear. The more you vacuum the longer your carpets will last.

2. Buy A Good Vacuum

All vacuums are not created equal and you need one that has enough suction to pull the grit that lays low in the carpet not just the surface debris. It's the grit deep in the carpet that rubs and wears the fabric causing your carpets to look old and wear out faster. So spend a little more on that vacuum and save thousands in replacing your carpets.

3. Replace The Padding

When you replace the carpet replace the padding. If you don't you'll void the warranty on your new carpet and you'll shorten the life of your carpet. There are specific types of padding designed for specific types of carpet. The compositions can be quite different. Replacing the padding with new padding will eliminate or reduce stretch, footprints, and dips and sags. It will keep your carpet looking fresh much longer and extend the life of your carpets.

4. Carpet Cleaning

Next to vacuuming carpet cleaning is the next most important maintenance you can do. You should carpet clean your rugs at least once a year and if it's a high traffic area more often. Carpet cleaning removes the grime and debris that wears away at the fiber it also removes oily residue and stains. It will make your carpet look newer and it will extend the life of your carpet. When carpet cleaning make sure you do not use a cleaner that leaves a residue as this will attract dirt and compound your problems.

5. Shoes Off

Have people remove their shoes when entering the room. Even though the soles may be clean they carry fine particles and oily substances from outside which can damage the carpet and age it.

6. No Bare Feet

Now I bet you didn't realize that bare feet are as damaging to your carpets as shoes are. That's because the soles of your feet will have a oil film [no you can't feel or see it] that will be picked up by your carpets leaving a residue behind that attracts dirt which then abrades your carpet.

7. Mats and Runners

For high traffic areas such as halls or entrances a mat or runner is an excellent way to save abuse to the carpet and it can add an additional touch to your decor. Use the mats and runners to absorb initial dirt and grime upon entering the house and keep it isolated. The mats can easily be replaced or cleaned. This will add years to the carpet in these areas.

8. Remove Stains

Remove stains immediately after they occur. Follow the manufacturer's directions or use a carpet cleaner solution. Stains once set can be difficult to remove and nothing will age your rug faster than a bunch of stains. Most stains, yes even the difficult ones, can be lifted if the proper procedures are followed.

These 8 tips will extend the life of your carpets, and keep them looking fresh and newer for longer.

About The Author

John Murray makes it easy to go through the carpet buying process and provides tips to keep your carpet lasting long. To learn more and receive your free mini-course visit:

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Caring for Your Plants

by: Janeth Duque

One of the best things you can do to save money on your landscape is to properly care for your plants. This is very important to keeping a healthy yard and an attractive landscape. If you properly care for your plants, you will save money in maintenance costs, and you will save money in having to replace plants that succumb to disease or other problems associated with poor care. Caring for your plants is not only good for the plants, but it is also good for you. You can get good exercise, escape from the stale air of your home, and get a little bit closer to nature. Not only do these things have positive physical benefits, but they have mental and emotional benefits as well. When you care for your plants you are saving money, helping your over all well being, and preserving a beautiful landscape.

Keeping your soil in good condition is essential for the care of your plants, whether the plants are part of the lawn, or whether they are trees or flowers. Having good soil is essential, as good soil provides nutrients to the plants and also offers moisture, as good soil preserves water and can act as a reservoir of moisture. Keeping your soil healthy is the beginning of caring for your plants. You can keep the soil healthy in a number of ways. Check the acid and alkali contents and make sure that they remain at levels that are good for your plants.

Also, it is a good idea to add organic material to your soil at least once a year. Using organic mulch is a good way to keep your soil in good shape. In shrub and flowerbeds, and around trees, wood chips can help the soil retain moisture and they will break own and provide nutrients as well. Reducing compaction is also important, as it allows air down into the soil and frees up room for beneficial organisms like earthworms. There is also more room for the roots to grow (any kind of roots — grass, tree, flower, etc.), giving them a firmer foundation and better health. Annual aeration will help your grass and the trees and shrubs that you have planted on your lawn. Turning the soil each year and adding special potting soil to the garden and flowerbeds at fall planting can also help.

Efficient watering techniques are also very helpful with plant care. These techniques include things like watering deeply and not terribly often. For the most part, people water their lawns too frequently. This keeps the roots shallow (shallow roots mean less healthy grass) and much of the water either runs off or evaporates. Watering in the early morning (before 10) and in the evening (after 6) can reduce losses to evaporation and increase the amount of water that is actually absorbed into the soil. When watering flowerbeds and trees and shrubs, make sure that rather than simply letting a sprinkler run, you take care to use the hose to water deeply. For established plants, there is no need to water more than once a week. Even the lawn does not need to be watered more than once or twice a week. This type of watering schedule forces the roots to go deeper into the soil, looking for moisture and creating healthier plants that are more tolerant of drought conditions.

Other good care practices include pruning woody plants and inspecting for pests and diseases. Not only does this help with the health of the plants, but it also contributes to their attractiveness. You can help your plants look fuller (especially evergreen shrubs) by pruning yearly. Blossoming plants also benefit from such care, as they will have more blooms when properly pruned. Additionally, when you inspect regularly for pests and diseases, you can catch problems before they get out of hand. You can properly treat the issue as needed, and save time and money in replacing the plants later.

While many people make use of fertilizers, pesticides, and weed killers, these are not necessarily essential for good plant care. It is true that these chemicals can contribute to the health and the look of your landscape, but if they are used improperly they can also cause damage. Make sure that you carefully read the instructions in full before applying any such product. Then, make sure you fallow the directions exactly. Too much of these chemicals can actually harm your plants.

About The Author

Janeth Duque of Geeks On Steroids. Janeth is well-known in the world of web design and search engine optimization.

Web Site: Geeks on Steroids

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Friday, January 4, 2008

Basement Renovation

by: Keith Hoyng

A finished basement can be a great place where you can entertain your family and friends by putting in a recreation room which includes a pool table, ping pong table, pinball machine, and/or dartboard.

Before a basement renovation you should:

1. Look for basement foundation cracks. Hairline cracks in the basement can be the fault of improper curing where as large cracks are most likely caused by settling. Both can be repaired with hydraulic cement if the crack is not active i.e. whatever caused the crack is no longer an existing problem. If the basement crack is still active then the crack patching may be re-opened later.

2. Look for basement moisture problems. Moisture problems may be tough to fix. Water is persistent and can make its way through the basement walls that are considered permeable. An easy way to test water problems is to tape a piece of aluminum foil to various places on the basement walls and floors. Seal the edges of the foil tightly and leave in place for several days. After several days, if moisture droplets appear beneath the foil then moisture is going through the basement masonry. If the moisture appears on top of the foil, the problem is condensation from basement humidity. Look for other water problems by looking in the underside of the basement's first subflooring for signs of leaks. Fix any faulty pipes and fixtures. Look for brownish stains on the basement subfloor and sides of the basement joists. This will indicate active or an old leak that has been repaired. If the stain is spongy, an active leak exists.

Basement renovation planning is key to the success of your basement. For instance, if you decide you want a wetbar and/or bathroom, you will need to have the plumbing done first. This would be a top priority because the plumbing usually goes beneath the cement floor. After the plumbing is completed, you need to plan and install the electric which may include hiring a certified electrician. Your plans should include enough electrical outlets, telephone lines and cable hook-ups. These will be used for your television(s), lamp(s), computer(s), electronic games, and a computer modem. Once installed, you must decide on paneling, dry walling, or painting to cover your cement walls. Although paneling might be cheaper, the refined look of drywall makes it the material of choice for finished spaces.

Paneling can look dated and does not always last long.

The next phase in your plans should be the stairwell. Some professionals suggest you should open up the stairwell and install a banister because a basement typically features stairwells that are enclosed. By opening up the basement stairwell you remove some of the basement like atmosphere. Some designers would like to see the doorways of the basement widened and employ arches and columns to dress them up. Examples include French Doors for privacy or a partial separator using decorative glass to add elegance to the basement room.

When looking at windows, if applicable, add as many as you can. Basements tend to be dark and gloomy but with more natural light it becomes a better and well lit area. If windows are very limited, look into security and use glass block windows. When it comes to artificial lighting, the choices are fluorescent lights, table lights, floor lamps and ceiling lights. If your budget allows, stay away from the fluorescent lighting since it is not the most appealing in design.

When installing the ceiling, stay away from suspended ceilings because they make the basement look like a basement. Consider using tray ceilings. When choosing the color for painting, use a light, bright, or dramatic color scheme. With these colors, you can turn that dark gloomy basement into a room that opens and brightens.

The basement floor is always cold since it is in direct contact with the ground. Look at having a subfloor between the concrete and flooring space. This will make it a warmer and dryer living area and a smooth surface for your carpet or flooring of your choosing. If a subfloor is not in your plans and you are using carpet, get plenty of padding to put under the carpet. Try to have a storage room added, maybe around the sump and furnace area. This would be convenient for all those things that can't be thrown out. Think about adding shelves to this room to keep it fairly organized.

To control noise, have thick wall to wall carpeting and a high quality pad can absorb much of the sound. You can use sound deadening material below any underlayment or subfloor. This is nice especially if the basement is used for a bedroom or office. An easy way to reduce noise is by installation of thick insulation between ceiling joists.

In below-ground basement renovations, should you want to add a kitchen or bath you can tie into the plumbing system that is in place above. You can buy toilets and lavatories that are specifically designed for below grade applications.

After your basement renovation are complete, start adding the "toys" that will make it an enjoyable area where you get away from it all.

About The Author

Keith Hoyng is the web master and operator of which is a good source of information for remodeling and much more information.

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Thursday, January 3, 2008

Kitchen Safety: Keeping Stovetops and Ovens Clean

by: Vincent Platania

The kitchen is the heart of a family’s house. It is in this room that a family prepares meals, shares meals, and gathers to talk about the day. This is the room where guests gather, where friends play games around the kitchen table, and where parents might relish a quiet time at the end of the day. It is also one of the leading locations for a household fire, an accident, or germs that breed food-borne illness. Every householder needs to be aware of the issue of kitchen safety.

Many homemakers ignore the regular cleaning and maintenance of kitchen appliances, preferring to cover dirty burners or toasters to give a false sense of cleanliness, but allowing crumbs and greasy residue to accumulate on these surfaces. Others hate cleaning their ovens with a passion reserved for little else, and put this chore off as long as possible, even when they own self-cleaning ovens. Kitchen safety is the farthest topic from their minds. However, food that is spilled or burned-onto the cook top or oven surface and not cleaned up is the leading cause of kitchen fires. Oven, microwave, or stovetop spills can ignite quickly, and can spread just as quickly to curtains, towels, or walls. Greasy residue on floors can cause people to slip and fall; and old, spoiled food on counters and tables is a source of bacteria that can contaminate fresh food and utensils. If small children are crawling or walking underfoot and reaching for every visible item of interest, tasting as they go, it is even more important to keep things clean in this central room. Kitchen cleanliness is an issue of kitchen safety, and not just of keeping a neat house to impress the neighbors.

A regular chore list is the best way to get in the habit of kitchen maintenance. Writing down each small chore and when it should be completed, helps to form habits that will keep the entire family safe and well. Counters and sinks should be wiped off at least daily, if not after each meal. Spills should be cleaned up quickly in microwave oven (Try Fuller Microwave Oven Cleaner.), regular ovens, or on stove tops. Cutting boards need to be washed with each use. To control spatters and the residue of cooking fumes, the entire kitchen should be washed with a good degreaser at least once a week. Range filters and hoods are part of this maintenance, as well as garbage cans and disposals. Any appliance that is regularly left on the counter should be given a cleaning at least once a week, if not after each use. Make sure that every surface of the kitchen is cleaned thoroughly at least once a month. (Try Fuller Cooktop and Counter Cleaner.) The entire family should be educated about the importance of these chores and encouraged to clean up their part of the mess.

A good, easy-to-use stove or oven cleaner can make these essential chores more palatable. What is the best oven cleaner? Look for one that does not need to be left overnight, but that works in a few hours. Many stove or oven cleaners produce less toxic fumes than earlier versions. Also, newer formulas will not run, but will stay in place to soak and thoroughly loosen the burned on food. (Try Fuller Brush’s Industrial Oven Cleaner or Spotless Oven). With a damp rag or sponge, wipe off any loose food, and then spray on the cleaner. Let the cleaner set for thirty minutes to several hours, depending on how soiled the area is or according to the product’s instructions. Soil should be softened to the point that it wipes up easily with a damp rag or sponge. If there is stubborn, burned on food, follow your oven manufacturer’s instructions for what type of abrasive you can safely use and not mar the cooking surface. If you have left the product on too long and it is dried, try laying a damp rag over the area for a few minutes to soften the product for easier removal.

There are products on the market that will help keep food from adhering to cooking surfaces, keeping these appliances from getting so dirty they are difficult to clean. One product that can save hours of cleanup time the next time you clean your oven is Fuller Brush’s Oven Spray. This product is to be sprayed on the oven surface after it is clean. Again, check with your oven manufacturer to see if it is compatible with your oven surface.

With good habits, or fanatical adherence to a chore list, your kitchen can be the safe, pleasant, gathering place it is meant to be. Kitchen safety will become second nature to you and your family.

About The Author

Vincent Platania

Fuller Brush Products. In business since 1906, Fuller Brush has been offering families high-quality household products for nearly a century. Fuller Brush natural cleaning products are environmentally friendly. Visit for more information

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