Green Movement in Your Home Improvement

Put the Green Movement in Your Home Improvement

Now that the environmental revolution is no longer a new movement, the costs of many of the materials needed to go green have come way down. On top of that, the assortment of those materials has vastly increased, making the selection process that much more rewarding. You can simply get more of what you want for less than ever. And if you still cannot afford to make the environmentally friendly energy changes you would like, there are, at least, a number of ways you can compensate as a consolation until you are able to make the investments you want.

Especially in the energy business, one economic principle remains – hire a pro. Enlisting the right specialist is always a good investment, even if it doesn’t at first seem like a no-brainer. If you choose wisely, the money you pay the professional should eventually be returned to you as added savings. Not only have they spent the time gaining the experience and expertise, but it is also in their best interest to provide you with a solid, lasting service, so that they can expect your repeated business as well as that of your friends and colleagues.

In particular, a professional energy assessor will save you money in the long run. You may be quite unaware just how much money is going (sometimes literally) out the window until an assessor has had the opportunity to, well, assess. He or she will have nothing much personally to gain from exaggerating the truth or being at all ineffectual. Even if there is a third party contractor involved with which you suspect the assessor to be cooperating, your satisfaction is a valuable commodity once the energy upgrades are complete. And if you are not able to calculate real savings, the assessor and contractor are both vulnerable to criticism.

And in these days of the Internet one client’s dissatisfaction can be quite damaging.

One thing to keep in mind when assessing an assessor – you do not need to purchase a new water heater. If it’s time to replace your old one, you can opt to go “tankless,” which means replacing your water heater with a tankless water heating system that will only heat as much water as you use.

It’s not a coincidence that saving money and saving the environment go hand-in-hand. It boils down to circumventing a mass-production industry’s imposed standards, standards that were instituted for a singular purpose: to make more money. A parallel can be drawn with the organic foods and produce industry. Since when does the omission of chemicals cost more money? It doesn’t. The same goes for home furnishings. Some materials are simply easier to replace in nature and more cost efficient, and with today’s green competition, the quality has risen in many respects.

Building standards have improved across the board, and there is just too much pressure to go green for a builder not to.

Some products and practices to consider:

Most of the major paint manufacturers have come out with eco-friendly paints and painting products, but they will advertise as such, so look for something to that effect on the label or on their website.

Cork and bamboo flooring is not only eco-logically friendly, they’re eco-nomically friendly as well. They are naturally replenished much more rapidly than the slow-growing hardwood trees.

Wool carpeting, while often slightly more expensive than synthetics, gives an organic and comfortable feel to your home, without the expense to nature created by the carpeting manufacturers.

Consider the now-old phrase, “Reduce, Re-use, Recycle,” in terms of the larger home furnishing you may need to repair. If you can take an old piece of flooring or furniture and revamp it to a new finish, it will probably have more intrinsic beauty and character than a new piece. Then you can at least find it a new home if you still don’t want it, because someone will certainly appreciate it, and the overall environmental cost of the furniture industry can be somewhat abated.

It’s a new world we live in, and even the big businesses are aware that more green environmentalism will lead to more green in their company bank accounts.


Real Estate Checklist

Construct with Care – a “Real” Real Estate Checklist

Property prices are typically built upon a set of factors that are determined by local real estate market conditions as opposed to national market trends. It’s no secret that a cape cod home in suburban California is going to fetch a far higher price than the exact same property situated in a rural Midwest location.

Market variables are constantly changing, but certain components are often used in the construction of a property’s price:

Foundation: Value of nearby homes – When a property is appraised, one of the factors which plays a major role in the final valuation is what similar-sized homes are selling for in the neighborhood.

The price of a 2,400 square-foot home with four bedrooms and two baths may be affected if a similar home across the street just sold last week. If the sale was closed at a higher than anticipated price, it would not be surprising to see an increased price on the home across the street.

The opposite is true as well. If the home across the street sold for a low price, the property still on the market may not be able to command its original asking price.

Framework: Size of property – This is evaluated by lot size and the home’s number of bedrooms, baths, and total square footage. “Additional” square footage, such as a partially finished basement or an enclosed porch, are secondary to the main living space.        Fixtures: Number of improvements (structures) – The home is the primary improvement on the property. Other structures might include a detached garage, storage shed, barn, workshop, greenhouse or poolhouse.

Beyond the home itself, if additional structures on the property are in good shape, they can enhance a property’s value. Conversely, if a garage is in dilapidated condition, it can detract from a home’s selling price.

Walls: Condition of property – How does the home look on the inside? Is it bright, airy and comfortable with newer plumbing and electrical wiring? Is it a freshly constructed home that will sell the minute it hits the listings? Or perhaps it is a 50-year-old home with a 50-year-old bathroom and kitchen that have never been updated.

In the big picture, appraisals are generally based on actual square footage, rather than décor details. But the interior’s appearance will influence the home’s value in prospective buyers’ eyes.

Topping: Amenities – Features beyond the property’s size, condition and improvements can affect real estate pricing. Common “extras” can include kitchen island, built-in dishwasher, fireplace, hot tub and walk-in closets.

Amenities are not limited to a home’s interior. Has the yard been professionally landscaped? Is the garage detached or attached? Is there a deck on the front or back of the house?

Sometimes what one person regards as a plus can be viewed as an obstacle to someone else. For instance, some sellers are convinced that an in-ground pool enhances their property’s value. What they may not realize is that a pool can be perceived as a problem to certain buyers, who may not want the maintenance or safety responsibilities that a pool requires.

The correct approach is to try to contemplate how the majority of buyers will feel about every “extra” on the property.

Finishing Touches: Curb appeal — Here is a factor that is sometimes overlooked because so much of the real estate pricing process is fixated in factual information. From a buyer’s perspective, a home’s curb appeal can motivate them to get out of the car, or just keep on driving.

The way a property looks from the street can be a crucial element in determining what a buyer will pay. It should emanate an element of warmth that invites prospective buyers and investors to walk through the home’s front door.

Extras: There are a myriad of other elements that can also affect real estate pricing. Sometimes they are foreseeable, other times they are not recognized until after the fact:

* Trees can be a negative influence if they are too mature and located too close to the house. Trees can also be a plus if a buyer wants a closer connection to nature.

* Nearby main thoroughfares can be a plus for someone who wants to get to work quickly or ride public transportation. Busy streets can be a detriment to others who worry about vehicular noise or crossing the road safely.

* A wood-burning stove could be desirable to certain-minded individuals, who might perceive it as a value. There are other individuals who might be concerned about having one in their home.

* Swimming pool – Here’s something that can either enhance a home’s value or detract from it, depending on the buyers’ preferences. If the buyer wants a swimming pool with the home, it can be a plus. If the buyer really likes the home, but does not want a pool, it can be a deal-breaker.

Fortunately, no matter how a real estate price is constructed, it can always be rebuilt to adapt to the conditions that guide the market.

Basic Drawer Side Construction

Basic Drawer Side Construction

Many types of joints are used in the construction of drawers. The joints range from the traditional dovetail to the nailed butt. The strongest joint is the one that is in-between the front and the sides. This is where the drawer takes the most abuse. The joint should look good and go with the design of the cabinet since this is the joint that everyone sees.

The half-blind dovetail joint has been used for over two hundred years and is still the best joint available for strength when properly completed. Originally the dovetail joint was cut by hand and was seen on all price ranges of furniture. Today, the half-blind dovetail joint is basically seen on high-end and custom-made drawers. This type of joint is not seen on the outside of the drawer. When looking to the inside the dovetail joint may be seen. A half-blind dovetail joint may be used on any of the drawer types (lipped, flush and overlay).

The straight dovetail joint that shows to the outside is not universally used in high end furniture. When used, a false front it put on the drawer to cover the dovetail unless the dovetail design is part of the desired look.

The sliding dovetail is used only on an overlay drawer. It is easy to make once the proper setup has been completed. This dovetail slot is visible from the top edge of the drawer front and can distract from the look of the cabinet once it is completed. That is why the overlay drawer front is used.

The box joint is made by using either a router or table saw. It does not have the interlocking capabilities of the dovetail. The box joint yields a strong hold due to the many gluing surfaces it provides.

A plain rabbet or dado joint connects the drawer together with an ease in construction. The joints do not interlock. There is no good gluing surface so the drawer will not last the test of time. The hybrid dado-and-rabbet joint does provide the locking of the pieces together. It is easy to make but it exposes the end-grain on the drawer front. This means a false front will need to be added unless it is part of the cabinet design.

Lock joints are strong and simple. They are especially used when dealing with routed drawer locks. A special router bit is used to produce both parts. This type of locked joint works well on all three drawer types (lipped, flush and overlay).

When deciding on what type of drawer construction to use it is best to consider the visual appearance after the project is complete. Each jointing procedure provides a different look to the completed drawer. The particular look could add character and dimension to any woodworking project.

String, the Ultimate Tool

String, the Ultimate Tool

String comes in a plethora of sizes, materials, and strengths. The string needed in a home owner’s toolkit is made from nylon which gives it strength. Everyone could use a roll or two with several hundred feet on them.

Sting is used in chalk lines, for marking long lines where a ruler is far too short to get the job done accurately. The string is carried in an enclosed reel that chalk can be added to, simply mark the object at opposite ends as needed, and stretch the chalk line across tightly. Once the line is taught snap it once and a line of chalk will mark where the line is stretched. Keep extra chalk handy as it tends to use it up quickly.

Plumb bobs use string to suspend a weight to mark vertical lines, keep the weight off the floor slightly so the bob is free to swing until it stops on its own. Find the mark on the floor or ceiling you want to transfer and mark the opposite end…. A chalk line reel is great for a plumb bob, and will keep the string neatly rolled up and out of the way when not in use.

A roll of string has many uses and a line level is just one more way to utilize string the ultimate tool!

A line level, hooks over the string and once you have pulled the string taught over your project it is possible to check it for level over a long distance. You can set grade, level forms, and measure rise or fall from it.

A string line on grade stakes will allow a straight wall to be built, or your concrete forms to run straight and level, or about any other long project that only string can aid in the completion of.

String can be used in a pinch to lash projects together like a clamp or temporarily hang one end of a long board in place when working by yourself when you need an extra hand.

String can be used as a means to draw large curves or circles, find your center point, run out a length of string to match your needs and attach a pencil in a loop at the other end to mark your curve with.

String the Ultimate tool, don’t leave home without it… or at least not when remodeling your house. Try to keep several rolls around since it is all too easy to cut one up for smaller projects.

Restoring an MG Midget Interior

Restoring an MG Midget Interior Part 10: Reconstruction – Panels and Parts

Your carpet has been installed, and before you applied your sound deadening materials and carpet you took lots of pictures to remind you where the little holes are in the side wall interior. And you’ve also got in hand a diaper pin or large embroidery needle.

Chock, block and disconnect, as usual.

Lay out the vinyl panels on the garage or living room floor, in the positions they go when inside the car. If your panels are like mine, they are constructed with a fiberboard interior, a thin piece of foam on top of the fiberboard and sealed by a piece of vinyl on the front and back. Some of the panel backs may be clear vinyl – it just depends on your manufacturer.

You may find some pre-drilled holes – some only through the back of the vinyl, and a few through the fiberboard as well. While these are useful in generally being in the place you need them to be, you can’t rely solely on these positions as matching your own car. Dry fitting the panels where they go in the car and measuring / marking the holes that you need saves you the pain of drilling a hole in the wrong place.

I also found that some of my panels were bigger than where they were to fit – the two I had most problem with were the ones over the wheel well. Be careful when forcing a fit – the interior fiberboard is sturdy but will not tolerate a lot of stress.

Starting in the footwells, dry fit and mark the places where your screws and grommets need to go to attach the panel to the side wall. If you’ve covered some or all of the side walls with sound deadening material, you will use your diaper pin or needle to poke through the material into the hole of the metal side wall. Find the holes first, then mark your dry-fitted vinyl panel.

Some people find it easier to create a paper template of each panel piece, and dry fit that to locate the holes. Just remember to mark each side of the paper as “front” or “back” and lay the “back” side of the paper on the front side of the vinyl panel.

For the screws to get through the fiberboard, use a razor blade to cut a small “X” where the hole should go on both sides of the panel. Then using a drill and the appropriate sized drill bit, AND TIGHTLY PRESSING DOWN the vinyl into the foam and interior fiberboard, drill a hole so your screw will go through the fiberboard.

Why, you may ask, are you emphasizing the “tightly pressing down”? Experience is a harsh teacher. If you don’t firmly hold the foam in place against the vinyl, the drill bit will grab the foam and quickly spin it into a ball underneath the vinyl, much like I’d imagine a tumor would look just under the skin.

And you’ve guessed I found out the hard way – yes, that’s true. The passenger side, under door vinyl panel above the carpeted floor is cut open on the back, so I could carefully reach around the fiberboard and untwist the foam. I then patched the back of the vinyl panel…one of those secrets that won’t show but you’ll always know is there.

Back to the footwell panel. After your holes are ready, put the panel in place, put a grommet (looks like a donut) next to the screwhead and screw the panel into place. The grommet distributes the holding surface of the screw across more panel area. You’ll have to judge how tight is too tight – remember you can fracture the fiberboard if you force it too tightly against a curved sidewall.

Continue working your way through the vinyl panels, lower to upper, overlaying pieces as they are needed. Behind the doors, you will recall that the side wall is actually covered with a piece of vinyl fabric. Carefully measure and dry fit this piece, then spray adhesive on the back of the fabric and the side wall itself (protecting the carpet and other vinyl panels from overspray). Allow the adhesive to dry to a tacky touch, and firmly press and smooth the fabric around the corners and into place. Do the same for the door caps, and go through that painful process to bolt the caps back onto the doors.

Pre-bend the panel that goes across the back wall to separate the passenger side from the trunk – you’ll see the melt lines in the vinyl panel that you follow to bend the panel.

If you plan to install speakers on your upgraded radio, most people put the speakers in that back panel. You’ll run the wires to the speaker under the vinyl panels from the radio to the speakers. Measure, cut and install with care – this is an expensive piece to replace.

Some of the panels, including the panels for the doors, use the “V” clip (with the “hat”) to hold the panel to the side wall. Slip the “hat” into the hole cut into the fiberboard, and twist the “V” around to fit into the hole in the metal wall. These pop nicely into place!

I did run into a problem where I could not find a hole. I did drill a couple of my own, and I did that with great care. You need to know what is behind the wall that you are drilling into, and you must STOP drilling before you punch through the exterior wall!

There are also restorers who will use small pieces of the vinyl ‘fabric’ to glue to the side walls where two pieces of vinyl panel meet. My previous restorer had done that. When I dry fit the panels, I decided I really didn’t need to do that work – I was happy with how the panels looked where they met on the wall. That’s a preference you’ll have to decide – just make sure that you cut pieces from the vinyl fabric that don’t leave you with enough fabric to cover those door caps.

Your panels should be in place, and the car’s interior should have a much more finished look. From a time perspective, it took me much longer to do the panels – about 24 total hours – than it took me to lay the carpet.

Now the fun part starts!

The first thing I put back was the ashtray! I had cleaned the pieces, and re-sprayed the appropriate pieces with matte black spray paint – several coats. Stabbing my diaper pin through the carpet and DynaMat, I located the two screw holes, and screwed the ashtray base to the carpeted hump. I fit the rod through the base and cover, and inserted the ash catcher! It was fast, easy, and started to bring the car back to life – and I don’t even smoke!

Got through your baggies and put back the glove box, door handles, window handles and door pulls. I did all this before I replaced the door trim, because I was in a hurry to see more of the finished look!

You will fit the door trim over the exposed metal edges, and over the vinyl fabric and panels. The trim I used was longer than I needed, to allow for variance in different MG door sizes. I started from the top behind the seat to the front of the doorway. Pressing the channel of the trim firmly onto the edge and over the vinyl takes some patience but is easy to do. Use a clean plastic putty knife against the vinyl and force the trim channel over the putty knife, to avoid damaging the vinyl. (Wiggle the putty knife out from under the hard channel to free it).

Cut the excess trim with a very sturdy pair of scissors, a tin snip or a wirecutter. Alternatively, you could cut it with a razor blade, but I’d suspect that would be hard to do. Return the finisher and the front trim clip to their rightful places for each door opening. Reattach the door straps over the trim and through the vinyl panels as well.

You’ll firmly close the doors against the stiff, new trim to get them to close, and it’s recommended you leave the doors closed for 24-48 hours to allow the trim to adjust to the door.

That’s all for now – the last 2 articles will cover the seats (no pun intended) and discuss some of the exterior maintenance items you may also want to address.