Plumbing tips aren’t hard to come by, but plumbing tips from the experts are. Mr. Rooter® Plumbing has dedicated the space below to answering your questions with knowledge that comes from years of experience.
Weekly TIP: Clogged Drains and Video Camera Inspection
Clogged drains may require a video camera inspection if you have repeated problems. Some clogs can be easily fixed, but if you can’t locate the trouble yourself, you should call Mr. Rooter Plumbing professional to do a complete video camera inspection of your plumbing system.
A company properly equipped for this task, such as Mr. Rooter Plumbing, will provide a complete pipe inspection system to determine the source of your problem. If you require a video camera inspection, chances are the clogged drains are being caused deep within the system. Video camera inspection is an important tool in both detection and fixing the problem correctly. Different clogs require different solutions. You may have debris lodged in the system or tree roots growing into your pipes. Video camera inspection is an excellent way to prescribe treatment.
A little imagination - and a lick of paint - goes a long way. Good tape is critical for getting sharp lines, so stick to a good name brand, like ScotchBlue
We’re glad to report that the old, restrictive rules of decorating, including such gems as “always stick to one style or era in a room to achieve a consistent look” have gone the way of the Dodo. Now, it’s all about layering an interesting mix of old and new and blending a variety of textures and finishes to create spaces that are highly personal and delightfully eclectic.
Happily, getting the look can be both economical and eco-friendly. Our suggestion? Individualize your décor by finding inexpensive, unassuming pieces on classified sites like Kijiji www.kijiji.ca. Then, with a lick of paint, and a little TLC, transform them into one-of-a-kind décor.
Recently, I created several home décor gems out of gently-used items easily found on Kijiji, which has recently added outdoor items, appliances and reno materials as distinct categories, making searching even easier. If you can’t immediately find what you’re looking for, sign up for an alert when an item that matches your search term comes online.
Here are a couple of projects that I hope inspire you to reduce, reuse and redecorate.
An old plate becomes a distinctive time piece
Individual plates make great wall clocks. All you need is a plate, along with clocks hands (they come in cute shapes, such as knives and forks, hammers and screwdrivers or fishing rods) and a movement, both of which are available for less than $10 from Lee Valley www.leevalley.com , which also carries adhesive-backed numbers and dots.
To make, slowly and carefully drill a small hole in the centre of the plate. Place a piece of tape over the drill spot to keep it from cracking and added a few drops of water as you go along to keep the drill bit cool and lubricated (mineral oil works for that, too.). Then attach the movement and hands.
Check out the fabric section, too, and don’t discount linen tablecloths just because it has a tear or stain. Use still-good stuff into pillow shams, napkins, or tea and guest towels.
All it tooks was ScotchBlue tape and a daub of paint to create a one of a kind pilow to match other decor pieces
Plain pillow shams can be dressed up with fabric paint. I tried two methods. One was to simply tape straight lines with Scotch Blue tape www.scotchblue.com along a pillow and paint it out in cheery colours. For another pillow, I made my own stencil by hanging a length of the tape from a doorway and, using hole-punchers with two different sizes of holes, randomly punching a pattern. You can also get special edger punches with various designs. Remember to wipe excess paint from a small brush and brush lightly on the fabric (better here to do a couple of light coats than one thick one.)The same technique works on a glass vase. For a subtle effect, Krylon’s frosted glass spray www.krylon.com.
A bit of paint, and some good tape - try ScotchBlue - and you have a one of a kind pilow to match your other decor pieces
Paint out the messy bits on old pieces - and leave the rest as is
And don’t forget that painting stripes or patterns on a wall is an easy way to pump up the look of an entire room.
Not all pieces need to be entirely made over. I had no interest in stripping or painting the ornate legs on another older end table, but the top of it was damaged. I cleaned and oiled the legs before sanding the top and smoothing out dents with wood filler. On went a coat of primer (don’t skip this step!) and then a layer of Jute from Pittsburgh Paints and a narrow trim with Farrow and Ball’s Blazer — a warm, orangey-red. (Ahem – the ScotchBlue tape came in handy here as well – because my hand is not that steady.) I’ve since discovered that mixing original finishes with freshly painted surfaces is a trend that’s turning up in décor mags and on hip design blogs. Which makes me, of course, one of the cool kids. Better late than never, I guess!
StonePeak is excited to be a part of a new case study showcasing the latest and greatest eco-friendly construction material designed for sustainability and energy efficiency. The Green Idea House is a 2,100 square foot home that is being remodeled to give it a modern look that says it is possible to be both environmentally sensitive and beautiful.
The house is being used in a long term case study put on by Southern California Edison to measure the effects of green products on energy consumption. The great thing about this project is they are using affordable products in a replicable design, so the concept can be reused with similar costs to standard housing.
The owners of the house are not developers, architects, or manufacturers, but actually the family that will be living there. While making the selection for their “green” house they were strictly looking to partner with businesses that are engaged in sustainable activities.
“We want materials that will stand the test of time and hold up for our active family. The selection process was made easier because of the wide variety of sizes StonePeak has to offer,” said house owner Monica Fortunato.
Upon their search they found that StonePeak exemplified these qualities and decided to install our tile in two of their rooms:
“We chose from the Cesare collection because the color variation in the tile is one of the most beautiful tiles we have seen.”
For the downstairs laundry room they will have Cloudsky from the Sky collection.
“We chose from the sky collection for our laundry and downstairs bath because of the thru-color and beauty of the tile.”
The Green Idea House will be holding tours of the house for the next three years, including The Solar Tour and the Earth Day Tour, along with several green building workshops.
During these tours you can speak with an Energy Upgrade California contractor and learn how you can:
Increase energy and water efficiency
Live more comfortably in your home
Get up to *8,000 in rebates and incentives from Energy Upgrade California in Los Angeles
How it’s Done
The tours will showcase the innovative technologies that make the Green Idea House net zero energy, zero carbon and responsive to the environment in terms of water, waste, and toxicity.
The concept of a net zero house is to harvest as much energy as you use. With the state of California attempting to make all new residence net zero by 2020, the question arose in Robert Fortunato’s mind, “How are we going to get there? Can we get there? Let’s build it today!”
One of the key features of the Green Idea House is a massive overhang pointing south. While the appearance may seem odd at first glance, the functionality of it is quite genius. Simply put, during the summer months when the sun is high, the overhang will help shade the house helping it keep cool. The opposite effect occurs during the winter months as when the sun is low; its rays will come in below the overhang penetrating large windows, thus helping to heat the house. By using an air to water heat exchange they are able to harvest the ambient air from the garage and use it to help heat the rest of the house. This effortless process can help with up to 50% of the energy it takes to heat and cool a standard house.
“The Green Idea House is like a stone soup,” Robert remarked. “When everyone contributes it’s amazing what can happen.”
We will keep you updated with pictures and information as the house becomes complete.
Tweets, texts and hurried telephone calls have become the hallmarks of our time-starved lives. Given all the pressure, it’s no wonder that there’s been a return to spending downtime at home, cocooning with friends and family. It’s a sad fact, though, that for many people, one of best ways to do that — home entertaining — is fraught with worry. They’ll fuss over not knowing what to cook, or how to dress the table, or get in a tizzy if they don’t have time to clean the house from tip to top before the first guest arrives.
If that sounds like you, there are a few simple tips you can follow to take the horror out of home entertaining. First of all, take it easy. Pals are coming to see you, not to find out if you swept under the couch this week or whether you can make a killer Banana Flambé. And if they are, maybe it’s time to trade them in for more laid-back buddies.
One of the biggest concerns of wannabe hosts is that they’ll end up spending too much time in the kitchen, sweating over the meal, while guests are left alone to amuse themselves in the living room (possibly by checking for dust bunnies under the couch). The “smart” features that are a part of so many of today’s appliances can help there. For example, Hamilton Beach has a new 20-cup rice cooker with pre-programmed and timed settings for rice, soups and hot cereals. That means you can set it up in the morning, and program it to be ready for whenever you plan to sit down to the table. It’s terrific for a large crowd, and sells for about $70. For more information, go to hamiltonbeach.ca.
If it’s cooking for a crowd that stops you from having the gang over, get some help from a good grocer. Some, such as Longo’s (longos.com), have a range of very good salads, entrees and desserts, or offer full catering options. Longo’s also has a spectacular selection of house brands, including cheeses, dips and compotes, as well as a bakery that offers artisanal bread that’s to die for. Grab a great loaf, flavoured oil for dipping, and some mixed nuts, and your pre-dinner nibbles are taken care of.
Achieving a well-dressed table needn’t be a huge chore, either. The easiest, no-fuss idea I’ve seen this season comes from Home Hardware’s Home at Home magazine. The editors took a simple paint drop cloth, (about $20) and used it on the table. The coarse, heavy cotton looks like a fabulous rustic linen and is very durable (so who cares if Aunt Edna spills the Beaujolais on it!).
You can also add sizzle to a plain white table cloth by running a length of leftover wallpaper or wrapping paper along the table length. I recently used a gorgeous gold and green wallpaper to create a rich backdrop for my gold-rimmed, green floral china. It would work equally well, though, with a bold black and white graphic paper, using white tableware on a shiny red chargers.
The best tip for successful entertaining? Relax, and remember that it’s supposed to be fun. Because in this high-pressure world, what the best hosts offer friends and family is a few hours of undivided attention in a calm, unhurried atmosphere. That’s sweeter than any fancy dessert, and richer than a double-creme Camembert.
Vicky Sanderson is a columnists who reports on home products, gadgets and trends and recently appeared as a guest presenter at the Fall Home Show
Along with spring comes the annual spring cleaning. So when you’re conquering cluttered closets and attacking ancient attics, remember that they shouldn’t be the only things on the to-do list: your heating and cooling system needs attention too. Since proper up-keep can increase a system’s efficiency and therefore decrease electricity bills, cleaning your system can save money.
Preventative maintenance inspections are the best way to reveal air leaks, rust, corrosion and dust build-up in your air conditioning system. A properly maintained unit will have increased efficiency and can decrease energy bills because it’s not working as hard to keep you comfortable. In this economy every penny counts, so while a properly maintained unit can keep you comfortable, a maintained AC unit also helps reduce costs in utility bills.
When an air conditioner is turned on after sitting around all winter, water may be produced in the form of condensation on cool indoor coils, and drains from these coils can become blocked from dust and algae growth. A blocked drain can cause flooding or water damage in the area surrounding your indoor unit. Often preventable complications can cause major equipment malfunctions.
To keep your air conditioner unit in excellent condition, follow these five tips:
1. Clean or replace air filters regularly to help the AC unit run more efficiently.
2. Open vents in all rooms – closing them could restrict air flow and cause system malfunctions.
3. Remove shrubs, grass and leaves from the condenser coil and within three feet of outside unit.
4. Install a programmable thermostat – it automatically changes the temperature when away or asleep.
5. Inspect and caulk windows and doors annually where needed. This can help your system to maintain a more even temperature.
To avoid equipment malfunctions and other headaches, homeowners should hire a professional technician to perform a tune-up on their air conditioner, which includes examining ductwork, checking the refrigerant level and tightening the wiring connections. This is also a good time to check your home’s safety equipment to ensure your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are working properly.
Avoid the annual headache with spring cleaning and reap the benefits of spring savings instead.
Looking for a way to reduce your energy costs? If you consult your local energy company, you will likely receive a brochure explaining how to wrap your pipes, put a blanket around your hot water heater, plugging cracks and holes through which drafts can flow, and adding reflective coatings to your windows. No harm in any of that, and it’s a good start. But for homeowners, there is a better place to start – start at the top, with your roof.
Why start with the roof? For the same reason that your mother tells you to wear a hat outside in snowy weather – just as most of your body heat is lost through your head, most of your home’s heat is lost through the roof. Heat rises.
Likewise, your roof is the part of your home that is most exposed to the sun, so the question of whether your home will absorb the sun’s heat or reflect it back into the atmosphere is decided right there – on the roof.
Homeowners don’t like to mess with their roofs, and for good reason – roof work can be expensive. But there are a range of options, and if you are considering an ecofriendly option such as installing solar panels, you may qualify for state or federal tax subsidies that will help to defray the cost. (To find out what subsidies exist in your area, check the Interstate Renewable Energy Council’s Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency, DSIRE, or try this calculator).
If you are considering making your roof a part of your home’s energy efficiency plan, you will need to begin by answering the following questions:
What material do you want to use for your roof?
What color should your roof be?
Do you want to add solar panels or solar shingles to your roof in order to capture solar energy for electricity or to provide heat for water?
These days, homeowners have many roofing materials to choose from. Most Americans (about 75 percent) go for cheap asphalt shingles – but cheap is the best that can be said of asphalt as a roofing material. It doesn’t insulate well, it is generally not recyclable at the end of its life, and its life is not long.
On the other end of the economic spectrum, affluent homeowners will often choose wood shingles, such as cedar shakes, or slate. These options are all natural, insulate well, and are expensive. But cedar often comes from old-growth forests and slate is a non-renewable resource. Moreover, wood shingles will swell and shrink over time, producing cracks and resulting in moisture damage. Clay tiles are more durable and are made from a renewable, sustainable material, but they are so expensive that most homeowners can only manage to use them as accent materials along the edges of roofs.
Somewhere in the middle, you have metal roofs. Metal roofs insulate well, they have high solar reflectance (meaning they stay cooler in the summer), they last a long time, and they are frequently made from recycled metals (and can be recycled themselves at the end of their lives). But they can be somewhat expensive.
Nowadays, there is another option: recycled roofing materials. Believe it or not, you can now make your roof from recycled plastic, carpet, or tires. You can also opt for reclaimed or sustainably grown wood.
Make Your Electric Meter Spin Backward
If you want to generate electric power on your roof, or at least collect enough heat to warm up water, you may want to start with a basic metal roof. A standing-seam metal roof can work well as a base for thin-film photovoltaic panels. You’ll be following in reputable footsteps – President Barack Obama is adding solar panels to the White House roof this year, as is Texas Governor Rick Perry.
Solar panels can be expensive – most solar panel systems cost at least $2,000 to $3,000 to install, and many cost more, depending on the system and the particular circumstances at your home. Solar panel systems pay for themselves within a few years, but that doesn’t help when you are trying to scrape together the money for the installation.
There is also another solar roofing option – solar shingles. Solar shingles may be an ideal solution if by chance you have a roof that is already shingled, but is losing shingles in (preferably) a south-facing location where you can free up 300 to 400 feet of roof space. If you need to replace shingles anyway, you may as well replace the old shingles with matching solar shingles (they are designed to blend in with the asphalt shingles that most American homes use). Like solar panels, solar shingles can be connected to your local energy grid, so that if you produce excess electricity, it can go back into the system and your electric company can reimburse you for it. By absorbing heat from the sun, solar shingles can also reduce the amount of heat that your home absorbs, so you may find that you do not need to run an air conditioner as much in the summer. Don’t expect to go entirely off-grid with solar shingles – shingles do not store solar energy (unless you have also added batteries to hold stored energy, but adding batteries can add as much as $10,000 to your shingle installation costs), so you will need your regular electric grid at night. Homeowners who choose this option find that the solar shingles pay for themselves in about 8 to 10 years, while they last for 20-40 years (depending on climate and maintenance).
Solar panels and shingles not only pay for themselves over time by allowing you to sell power back to your electric company, but they add to the value of your home. According to a recent study by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, 72,000 California homeowners who added solar panels to their roofs saw their home values rise by an average of $17,000 when they put their homes on the market. Consequently, you may be able to roll the cost of installation over into your mortgage.
Unless you are a roofing contractor yourself or have equivalent experience, don’t try to install your own roof. Find a contractor who is experienced in the kind of roof that you plan to put in place. If you are adding solar panels or solar shingles, you will also need an electrician. Be aware, as well, that if you are replacing a roof that was originally installed between 1940 and 1975, you may need to hire someone to do asbestos remediation. Finally, don’t forget to check your local building codes (or better yet, work with a contractor who is intimately familiar with them). Be sure, as well, to check with your homeowner’s insurance company to find out if the change in roofing materials will affect your insurance premiums.
Do your homework and use common sense. If you can find a contractor and a roofing system that you are happy with, chances are that you will be very pleased with the results.
About the Author
Herbert Norton is a roofing contractor that started a website on roofing in the winter months to help educate his clients. Roofery.com has extensive information on many different types of roofing shingles, such as slate, tile, solar and metal shingles, to help consumers make an educated decision. Recently Herbert has been researching the “greening” of asphalt shingles, which are not normally eco-friendly.