Tips for Troubleshooting Home Plumbing

Home plumbing is bound to fail you at some point in the future. Problems related to plumbing can occur as a result of human intervention as well as simple wear and tear over time with prolonged use. Troubleshooting plumbing problems is going to be inextricably intertwined with the specific fixture involved.

Faucet Plumbing Problems

Check to make sure that the washer is not worn or damaged if the faucet is dripping from its spout. Check for worn O-rings or a loose packing nut if you have a compression faucet that is leaking from its lone handle.

Tighten the locknuts beneath the faucet set if you notice water beneath the sink. Inspect the putty or gasket if the locknuts are already tight and replace if the putty has dried and hardened or the gasket is worn.

Clean the aerator if the flow from the spout is blocked. The cause of this plumbing problem is almost always a blockage in the aerator.

Replace the O-ring on the diverter valve if the spray hose is leaking. If the O-ring is in fine condition, check that the diverter valve has not become bent and replace if it has. Replace the washer at the base of the sprayer’s head if the O-ring and diverter valve are not the problem.

Toilet Plumbing Problems

Prepare to use either a plunger or auger if your toilet is overflowing as it is a sign of blockage in the drain pipe. You should use a plunger to deal with obstructions created by fecal material or toilet paper. Use the auger to deal with an object that would not normally be flushed down a toilet.

Check that the water supply is turned on if the toilet does not flush. Either tighten or replace a loose or broken toilet handle if this is the reason your toilet suddenly refuses to flush and the water is turned on. Replace the ball cock mechanism if the toilet’s lack of flushing is not due to lack of water or a broken handle.

Tighten the nuts or replace the washers if you notice water collecting beneath the toilet. Check that the gasket isn’t worn as this could cause water to spray from either the refill tube or the ball cock and result in water beneath the toilet.

Adjust the float arm or water-intake assembly if you notice the amount of water that refills the toilet bowl is less or more than it always has been. If the float arm is not the problem, adjust the ball cock. Replace the ball cock if it cannot be adjusted to allow the proper amount of water to fill the toilet bowl.

Inspect the toilet seat bolts for signs of corrosion if the seat has become loose. Check that the seat itself has not cracked. Tighten the bolts holding the seat down if those bolts have become loose. Replace corroded bolts with new ones. Replace the seat if it has become cracked.

Lawn Care Tips

Growing a lawn can be a part-time job for some homeowners. Those people who put their all into getting a showcase lawn don’t come by it through being half-assed, if you know what I mean. They use their entire butt as well as arms, legs, knees and toes. Well, a good lawn may not necessarily mean using your toes, but it could be close. What you really need if you are starting out on the odyssey of raising a top quality lawn are some tips and hints. And it just so happens that I have some hints and tips for creating a high quality lawn.


You want to avoid a compaction of the soil when you start out with your lawn. A compacted lawn is a lawn that is poorly aerated and you want proper aeration if you hope to achieve a solid quality lawn. Break up the compacted areas of the yard before you lay down the sod.

Mowing the Lawn

One of the great secrets behind those lawns that impress you as you drive past is that the caretaker took care to ensure regular mowing. Mowing the grass may seem like a chore to some people and those people probably will never have a truly spectacular lawn. Get to love the lawn by buying a riding mower if you need to. Regular mowing is a sure a guarantee of a prized lawn as you can get.


Become very familiar with the weed killing products on the market. Not all weedkillers are built to kill the same type of growth. You want to check the label of any weedkiller before you start using it because weedkillers are known to kill more than just weeds. Do the research to find out what particular and specific kind of weeds are threatening the prestige of your lawn.

Overseeding Thin Grass

A common obstacle to getting the showcase lawn of your dream are areas of sparse growth. Tackling these thinly growing areas by overseeding them may be the answer to your problem. Loosen up the soil in that thinning area and drop some grass seed and then rake over the soil area again.

Sod Quality

Just as weedkillers differ from one another, so does the quality of sod. You need to examine the quality of the sod you are buying before you have it delivered at your home. Don’t accept low quality sod. Examples of lawn sod to reject are those with too much yellowing, sod that is rotting and that with any signs of fungus.

Big Window Treatment Ideas

Big windows require special types of treatments to deal with their size or placement. Treating a big window can be done in a variety of ways. The one thing you want to make sure of when coming up with ideas for a treatment for a big window is that you don’t place any undo focus on the size so that the window becomes a focal point because you have failed to integrate it into the overall design concept of the room.

A bank of tall windows can be enhanced by adding decorative trim above the windows and plain white blinds to cover the glass. Look for trim that adds architectural interest to the area between the top of the window and the ceiling. Wooden slat blinds can be utilized to complement the texture of the molding.

A big window can use the shutter treatment to give it a bit of old-world charm. Consider installing upper and lower shutters that can be opened independently of each other. If you want a lot of light in, you open both the upper and lower shutter. If you prefer to use the window for ventilation, leave the top shutters closed and just open the bottom pieces.

Balloon shades are essential for any room that seeks the ultimate in femininity. This is a home decorating idea that is not exactly suitable for the home office where dad makes money by day trading stocks over the internet. Balloon shades look like those puffy sleeves that Napoleon Dynamite thinks are so cool. An extra bit of decorative statement can be made by using velvet as the material for your balloon shades.

Use wallpaper to decorate your own supersized window cornice. Cornices are constructed in a four-fold fashion: flat front, narrow dust board on top and two end pieces that close up the sides of the cornice. You can make your own cornice or you can buy one at the window supplies store. Ultimately, the point is to coordinate your room’s wallpaper by adding a wide strip to the face of the cornice. Accent the cornice by finding a pattern that is identical to the one used on your curtains and glue it onto the wallpaper covering the cornice.

Victorian stenciling is a big window treatment that is easy to do, fun and is artistic enough to lend any sized window a degree of elegance that will forever elude Yao Ming or Shaq. Bring your big window down to the size of little Queen Victoria by cutting out a stencil from cardboard and spraying car enamel paint through the stencil cutout and onto the window panes. The final result of this window treatment is a feeling of etched glass. The key to getting the most from Victorian stenciling is to cut out the stencil of your choice. Make your own rather than settling for a painting stencil that someone who has never even been to your house designed.

Bedroom Decorating Ideas: The 1940's and 1950's

The 1940s and 1950s both offer plenty of stylish glamor and iconic concepts for bedroom design. This period of history saw the world go from a world war to putting men into space. Creating an imaginative bedroom design that is unlike anyone else’s you know of should not be too hard if get to know your history and can find décor to fit your plans.

Film noir was invented in the 1940s to deal with the more ambiguous division between the good and bad guys following the victory over fascism. Bedroom noir means windows covered by nothsing but blinds slightly drawn to create the iconic shadows of film noir. You need a poster of a classic like Double Indemnity or Laura. The bedroom noir should be decorated monochromatically while avoiding starkly black or white paint or fabrics. Subtle gradations of gray make an appropriate paint scheme. Try to find some sleek Art Deco furnishings and add touches like a gun that’s really a lighter. Lighting should be directed to create ominous shadows. Wall décor should be slightly off-center and a little skewed to thematically recreate the unsettling atmosphere in which film noir characters found themselves.

A bachelor bedroom can look to the pin-up girls of the 1940s for inspiration. Cheesecake photos of beautiful models were the rule of the day. Your wall décor can tread the tame by focusing on movie superstars who

posed for pin-ups from Betty Grable to Lana Turner. Pin-up art also got a little underground if you want to get a little more extreme. Look to work by artists like Alberto Vargas and models like Bettie Page.

It’s about the attitude when it comes to a beatnik themed bedroom, daddy-O. To reflect the beatnik sensibility of going against the popular culture, your bedroom bookshelf needs to contain works by Jack Kerouac, Alan Ginsberg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Musical tastes can be reflected in bongo drums in the corner and the framed copies of discordant jazz albums. Plant a high round table with tall benches equipped with an espresso maker. The one thing you want to avoid above all else in creating a beatnik bedroom is the exhibition of anything square because you are, like, anything but a real L7.

The 1950s were the heyday of the drive-in movie theater. You can’t park your car in front of that extra-large-screen television, but you can decorate your bed with car décor to create the illusion. Head to the junk store or flea market and buy a speaker to affix to the side of your bed just as moviegoers affixed them to their car window. (Never mind whether it works or not; just like the teens of the 1950s.) Invest in some high quality movie posters of drive-in classics like The Creature From the Black Lagoon and I Was a Teenage Werewolf and frame them on the wall. Install one of those tabletop popcorn makers, press the Play button and recreate a Friday night out the average teenager in 1955.

What to Know About Cedar Shingles

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What should you know about shingle siding? Lots, if you are planning on a house that shingle siding. Far less if your house is made of bricks. Still, who knows, one day you decide to leave your brick house (possibly after a wolf blows to try to knock it down) and move to a house where you will install cedar shingle siding or roofing. Then you’ll need to know this stuff.

Cedar Shingle Types and Grades:

Two types of cedar shingles are used more than any other. White cedar, which weathers to a more grayish-silverish color and red cedar, which weathers to either dark brown, medium brown or silver-gray depending on the weather conditions in which the house is located. Both white and red cedar are available in three grades. Premium shingles is mostly used to top off house roofs. Number 2 grading is mainly used for sidewall shingling and Number 3 grade is typically used for sheds and garages and other buildings of a strictly utilitarian nature.

Cedar Shingle Code Requirements:

Certain codes must be met when you are installing wood shingles. Spacing between shingles cannot exceed a fourth of an inch and the offset between joints must be at least 1.5 inches. Fasteners need to penetrate either sheathing or furring strips by half an inch. Wood or plywood used for sheathing must be weather-resistant and contain a permeable membrane. Clearance between metal flashing and double course shingles need to be half an inch.

Application of Cedar Shingles:

Conventional application of wooden shingles means an APA rated sheathing and a barrier for air and water. You can apply a rainscreen when applying siding by placing the rainscreen over the air/water barrier. Outside corner sheathing needs air/water barrier that wraps around the corner. Leave behind a gap of 1/8 of an inch between the shingle and trim and then seal gaps with caulk.

Alignment of Wooden Shingles:

Offseting the gaps between cedar shakes is very important so pay attention. You don’t want water or moisture seeping in between the gaps as this will lead to leaking roofs. That 1.5 gap on successive courses can mean the difference between no leaks and leaks that lead to wearing rainboots inside the house. The gaps should be not be aligned on every other course.

Stainless Steel Siding Nails:

If you want black streaking running the course of yours wooden shingles, then by all means use the cheapest nails you can find. Spend the money to gain an advantage by using stainless steel siding nails.

Exterior Home Improvement Ideas

If the exterior of your home is significantly less than you would like to be aesthetically-speaking, you have a number of options available for upgrading to a look that you can be proud of. You may even become one of the showcase homes in the neighborhood and it won’t have to cost you an arm and a leg. If you have deep pockets, of course, you can certainly become a neighborhood showcase house.

Paint Job

Start exterior remodeling plans with a simple paint job. A new paint job that offers bold and vivid colors on the trim can be a substantial home improvement expense. Boldly painted shutters that complement or contrast with the color of the basic structure of your house can do wonders for its curb appeal if you are accenting for reasons of finance. Create a focal point for the exterior of your house and go for broke. Let the door paint match the trim paint or else go incredibly wild with color like a hot pink or a sexy red or a bright cerulean blue.


When you think of molding, you probably think of chair railing and wainscoting on the interior. Exterior molding around the doors and windows can do wonders for the ambient look of a house. Outlining the front door with a one-inch-thick trim of stock lumber in a band 10 inches wide can make your front door a focal point that sticks out like a pretty woman at a comic book convention. Mitered, half-round moldings simulate paneling on a front door so that’s a look you should consider as well for visual improvement of the exterior of the house.


If you don’t have shutters on your windows, consider installing either the real thing to offer protection of your glass panes or the faux kind of shutters. Painting those shutters a vivid accent color has been covered. Painting the shutters a shade of the structural color does you no good. If you’ve already got faux half-window shutters, consider both the aesthetic appeal and the utilitarian concept of installing actual shutters you close to offer protection of your windows during a storm. Consider painting the insides and the outsides of these shutters to create a flowing look across the house by utilizing patterns, geometry or even full-scale images.


Many an exterior flaw on a home has been covered up with judicious use of landscaping. You don’t really need a budget the size of Sarah Palin’s clothing budget during the 2008 election to utilize landscaping to upgrade your home. Add a privacy screen onto which climbing vines are added if your problem is also one of the neighbors being too nosy. The key to landscaping that is effective at bringing beauty to the exterior of your home lies in placing the plants where the most obvious vertical lines of your architectural meet solid ground. Another key is the efficient introduction of planters and plant beds along the wall. Fast growing shrubs and trees provide the best way of adding landscaped style to the exterior walls of your home.

What Should You Know about Central Air Conditioning?

A central air conditioning unit is a much more efficient and effective way to cool multiple rooms within a single building than using smaller individual air conditioners placed in each room. Central air conditioners distribute cooled air through ducts. In many cases, the unit is also used as a heating system to distribute warm air.

An indoor thermostat controls when the air conditioner kicks on. Once the temperature set by the thermostat has been reached, the air conditioning motor starts up and the conditioning process is begun when liquid refrigerant is cooled in the condenser coils.

The condenser unit is the part of the air conditioning system that is found outside. The placement of the condenser unit outside is done so for two reasons. The condenser unit creates a substantial amount of both noise and heat. The condenser fan that you can see through the grille in the top of the unit pulls air through condenser coils to dissipate this heat.

The compressor is located inside the condenser unit and its purpose is to pressurize vaporized refrigerant. This raises the temperature of the refrigerant as the compressor pumps it through the condenser coils. The refrigerant is cooled to a liquid within these cools before flowing through the evaporator coils that are located indoors. The refrigerant eventually returns to the compressor in vapor form.

Small diameter copper tubing is usually used to transport the refrigerant from the condenser to the evaporator found indoors. Some systems use a split line method of delivery in which liquid refrigerant flows through one line and refrigerant vapor runs through another.

The most common evaporator coil is an A-shaped system normally found at the top of the inside unit. This shape affords the coils the ability to get the largest amount of coils into the smallest available space. A drain pan is used to collect the water that condenses on the coil. A pipe is used to empty this pan and it is fitted with a trap that accomplishes two things. The drain pipe helps to insulate the air conditioner system against humid basement air in some places or it helps to present insect infestation of the coil in other homes.

A larger central air conditioning system does not necessarily mean a better or more efficient one. Size matters in terms of accuracy. An air conditioning unit that is too big will cycle over and over, according to “Reader’s Digest New Complete Do-It-Yourself Manual.” This can lead not only to inefficient cooling as well as reducing the life expectancy of the system’s compressor. Too large a system can also raise the level of humidity in your home.

Central air conditioning efficiency can be determined by checking the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) number. Systems with a higher number are more efficient, but they are also more expensive upfront. You need to take into consideration not only how high the SEER number is, but the number of hours that you actually need to use air conditioning per year to calculate whether the additional cost will be beneficial to you.

How to Clean a Gas Range

Cleaning a gas range means wiping up spills as early as possible. Of course, when cooking and multitasking in the kitchen, not to mention dealing with kids and the stress of life, sometimes you just have to let spills go. That means when you come back to clean your gas range you will have to use more elbow grease and give it a more efficient scrubbing. Keeping your gas range as shiny as it was the day you moved in or bought it from the Home Depot means moving grease and food away from the epicenter as quickly as possible.

Cleaning your gas range quickly does not mean cleaning it while it remains hot. Above all else, wait for this particular kitchen appliance to cool down before cleaning. The enamel section of a gas range can be cleaned fairly easily with nothing more sophisticated than hot water and a detergent like Dawn. I prefer the mountain pine scent myself, but it’s up to you. After cleaning away the grease and food particles from the range, simply rinse with clear water. Any food that has been allowed to burn onto the gas range can be worked off with the meshy side of a two-side sponge.

Cleaning the pans beneath the burners on a gas range means soaking them in hot water with a strong detergent. Rise away with clear water. The burners on a gas range will probably need a more robust detergent unless you’ve got a very strong soap. Allow the gas burners to soak for a while and then use a stiff brush. The soak is great for loosening grease and the stiff brush will allow you to pare away anything that the soaking doesn’t cleanse. For gas range burners that have not been cleaned since Mike Vick was admired, you can drop them into a large pot—as long as the pot is not made of aluminum—and boil them in a mixture of two tablespoons of baking soda to a gallon of water.

Remember, also, that items like milk, vinegar and citrus juices can cause stains on enamel so try to wipe them up immediately.

Tips for Choosing a Mattress

Ever have a night when you slept off and on for ten hours and found yourself dragging through the rest of the day? Ever had a night when you only got in about five hours of really good sleep and were full of pith and vinegar the next day? It’s all about the quality, not quantity. If you’ve got a good bed that allows you to sleep deeply when you slumber, it’s almost a guarantee of a better day.

Choosing a mattress is the key to both good sleep and good waking. First things first: size. Does size matter? Is a king worth the price? Is a queen really any better than a double? If you’re planning on sleeping single in a double bed, you’re probably okay. But if you’re planning on sleeping with someone else in that double bed, you should be aware that when two people of average size share a double mattress, they typically have only about 25 inches of space apiece. If that sounds acceptable, then consider this: The average baby crib is the same width. So if you’re sleeping on a double mattress with someone else, it’s kind of like crawling into the crib and attempting to return to the womb. On the other hand, a queen size mattress not only gives you seven more inches of space to share, but is also five inches longer. If you go up to a king size mattress, you get sixteen inches more to share.

When shopping for a new mattress, don’t be fooled by cost. The price of a mattress is dependent upon a large number of factors including store overhead, size, quality of construction and materials, etc. You can save significantly depending on where you shop. For instance, buying the same mattress at a mattress warehouse can be anywhere from 10 to 50 percent cheaper than buying it at a fancy store. Quality does affect price, but not nearly as much as profit affects price.

Choosing a mattress today is a bit more complicated than it was a decade or so ago. New improvements in construction have been made, but basically it still comes down to some basic things to look for when shopping for a mattress. Obviously, the first thing you should always do is test it out. When you find a mattress that catches your eye, make sure it catches your rear; sit down on the edge. Ideally—and, of course, everybody has their preference when it comes to soft and firm—you should feel strong support beneath you. If the mattress has a squishy feeling to it then it’s probably not very high quality. Additionally, take a look behind you when you stand up; make sure the mattress promptly springs into shape and doesn’t slowly morph back to normal.

Next, go ahead and lie down on the mattress. Choosing a mattress is about choosing the place where you will be spending at least a third of your life while you have it. (And hopefully even more, wink-wink, nudge-nudge.) If the store won’t let you lie down on it, leave. Would you buy a car without testing driving it? And you don’t spend nearly as much time inside your car. If you’re buying the mattress for two, both of you should lie down on it together. And really test it out. Recreate a typical night’s sleep for the both of you. If you start out on your back and wind up on your side, then try it both ways. If you’re the type who is all over the bed—one of those people who often winds up with your head at the foot and vice versa—then try it out in every position. Then try rolling back and forth across the bed. In this way you can test whether it’s prone to sagging in the middle.

One word of advice: Don’t test-drive the mattress for all your mattress needs. There may be stores that allow that kind of behavior, but make sure first. Seriously, though, we all know that mattresses aren’t just for sleeping. If you can find a mattress in the store that’s up against the wall, and you spend a lot of time in bed with your back against the wall watching TV, test it out that way. Obviously, you probably aren’t going to want to test the mattress out in the store for the other main use, but consider what kind of sex life you do have. If you’ve got a firm mattress at home that has withstood some legendary adventures, you certainly don’t want to take a chance on buying a new mattress that feels less sturdy. It may sound silly, but do keep in mind that you aren’t purchasing a mattress simply for sleep. And one last comment on this topic: If you live with kids or other family members, or live in apartment on top of another apartment, you might want to keep on looking if your test-drive reveals a propensity for squeaky springs. What happens in your bedroom should stay in your bedroom. Unless you like advertising it, of course.

No matter how terrific a mattress you find, however, it means nothing unless you’ve got a good box spring beneath it. Did you know that the box spring bears up to 80% of your weight when sleeping? A worn or shoddily constructed box spring can effectively undo the benefits of a perfect mattress, so before shopping for a new mattress be sure to examine your box spring and see if it’s up to snuff.

A good mattress should last at least ten years and a high quality mattress can often keep giving you a good night’s rest for up to twenty years. Since your body isn’t going to spend anywhere near as much time in any other one place, it only makes sense to spend quality time looking for a quality mattress. If you aren’t sleeping good, chances are you are enjoying life to the fullest extent.