Starting a small compost bin for household use reduces the amount of waste your family sends to the landfill each week. Although a compost pile is the easiest method of composting, using a compost bin will prevent rodents and other scavengers from digging in your compost in search of food. Choose a bin that’s large enough to accommodate your family’s food waste and yard clippings and has a sturdy lid to keep out pests.
Pick a dry, shady location for your compost bin. If you have a home garden, put the bin near it to reduce the distance you will have to transport the finished compost.
Place brown composting materials, such as dead leaves, twigs and branches, into your composting bin. Chop up larger pieces, such as branches, into smaller bits with a shovel or machete so they will decompose quickly.
Add green composting materials, such as vegetable scraps, lawn waste and other wet items, to your compost bin. Mix the materials with a pitchfork.
Add water as necessary to make the mixture slightly damp, then mix once more. Continue this process, slowly building the depth of your compost as you have more waste to add. Do this until you have at least 10 inches of compost in the bottom of your bin.
Bury vegetable and fruit scraps, coffee grounds or other wet items with a strong odor under 10 inches of compost. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends this depth to prevent odors. Moisten the compost with water as necessary to ensure that the mixture is slightly damp.
Mix the compost every two weeks with a pitchfork. This process should add additional air pockets to the mix, reducing odor and accelerating decomposition.
Article by Amy A Whittle of Demand Media. Featured in Green Living section at NationalGeographic.com.
Tis the season to be outdoors, we start to notice the imperfections or dirtiness of our home’s exterior. A home’s siding and roof can be spruced up with routine cleaning and maintenance. So how do you do this task? Read what Time Carter, Ask the Builder, tells his reader or simply contact Home Services Link and have it professionally done.
DEAR TIM: My primary home and a camp I own in the woods both are covered with siding. One is wood, the other is vinyl siding, and both are dirty. In the past few years, I’ve been stunned to discover mildew and algae growing on the vinyl siding. I thought vinyl siding was supposed to be maintenance-free, that’s why I purchased it. What’s going on? Should I just drag out my pressure washer and get to work, or is there an alternative method to clean siding on houses? Patrick O., Fryeburg, ME
DEAR PATRICK: Each week I receive emails from homeowners just like you. They share your astonishment about having to clean their vinyl siding. Many homeowners are not too happy as the salesmen’s claims about no-maintenance seem to be as hollow as an old log.
I’ve seen hundreds of printed ads, heard countless radio commercials, etc. with these maintenance-free statements when it comes to exterior home improvement products. Decking, siding, railings, fencing, etc. are often touted as requiring no future care. As you now know, it’s just not true. Certain products are absolutely reduced-maintenance, but not maintenance-free.
You’re probably wondering how mildew and algae can survive on plastic, or vinyl siding. The mildew and algae are feeding on sugars, dust, dirt, or other things that are attached to the siding. Many people are unaware that trees, both evergreen and deciduous, often broadcast ultra-fine aerosols of sugars at different times of years. Park your car under certain trees, and you’ll discover thousands of tiny droplets of sap or sugar on the painted finish and glass. This is yummy food for mildew and algae!
When it comes to wood siding, the mildew and algae are possibly feasting on the actual stains and sealers you may have used to preserve the wood. Many clear and semi-transparent wood sealers and stains are made with alkyd or oil resins. These natural oils are also delicious food for mildew and algae. Some of the sealers and stains contain chemicals that are designed to prevent mildew and algae growth, but these chemicals can breakdown when exposed to sunlight and repeated exposure to rainwater.
I know that you may love your pressure washer because it’s a cool tool, but it can wreak havoc with houses if used improperly. Pressure washers are like Spiderman – “With great power comes great responsibility.”
The water that’s ejected from the tip of the pressure washer wand can be driven into cracks and crevices where water is not supposed to go. The intense water stream can and will erode the lighter-colored spring wood in your wood siding causing it to look older than it actually is.
Water driven behind vinyl siding at lap joints and corners can cause wood rot if your house lacks a proper weather barrier under the vinyl siding. Believe it or not, this requirement was lacking from the building code for many years. There are tens of thousands of houses, maybe hundreds of thousands, that do not have a weather barrier under the siding. The siding is nailed directly to wood sheathing.
Perhaps the better way to clean the mildew and algae off your house is to use a hand-pump garden sprayer, some oxygen bleach and a brush on a pole. I just demonstrated this method last week to a homeowner, and he was amazed at how well it worked.
Don’t confuse oxygen bleach with chlorine bleach. Chlorine bleach can remove the color from wood siding, and it can kill expensive landscaping around your home. Oxygen bleach will not remove color from wood, and it’s safe to use around plants and animals.
To clean your wood and vinyl siding, you just mix the powdered OXYGEN BLEACH with warm water, stir till dissolved and then apply it generously to the siding. It’s best to work when the siding is in the shade. Allow the solution to fizz and bubble on the siding for about ten minutes.
Scrub with the brush and rinse with clear water from a garden hose. The siding should look brand new once dry.
It’s always best to apply the OXYGEN BLEACH solution to dry siding. This allows the solution to soak into the wood and deep clean it. Oxygen bleach can and will remove sun-damaged wood sealers and stains from the wood. It can absolutely remove sun-damaged and oxidized paint pigments from painted surfaces.
This makes it an excellent product to use if you’re getting ready to restain or repaint your home. You want to remove these damaged finishes before you apply new.
For periodic cleaning to prevent mildew and algae buildup, just wash your home each year with a solution of liquid dish soap and water. Remove the sugars from the siding before the mildew and algae sit down at the table to feast!
Do-it-yourself (DIY) projects have skyrocketed in popularity in recent years on the heels of popular home improvement shows and publications. And, for certain small projects, a DIY project can be rewarding and fun – if you are prepared and have the proper skills. But before you start knocking down walls and taking out wiring, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you have a clear idea of what you want your project to look like?
- Do you have the time to complete this project (be realistic!)?
- Have you ever undertaken a project like this before?
- Do you know everything you will need (materials, tools, etc.) to complete the project?
- Are you familiar with the applicable building codes and permits?
- Do you enjoy physical labor?
- Do you have all the tools you will need?
- Do you have the necessary skills for this project?
- If not, do you have the time and resources to learn these skills?
- Where will you obtain the necessary materials?
- If you cannot complete the project according to your original schedule, are you (and your family) prepared to handle the resulting inconvenience?
- Will you need assistance with this project? If so, who will assist you? Do they have the time and skills required for this project?
- Do you understand all the safety issues associated with this project?
- Are you familiar with the architecture and structural makeup of your home (i.e., how knocking down one wall will affect the rest of the structure)?
- Have you considered the hidden costs associated with doing it yourself – time, tools, and the possibility that you may actually decrease the value of your house if the result isn’t up to professional standards?
It is easy to look at the cost of hiring a professional remodeler and think only of labor and materials. But remember that a professional remodeler offers you an important service – years of experience, the right tools, a network of suppliers and subcontractors, and an in-depth understanding of legal regulations, cost estimating, scheduling, and the latest construction techniques and materials.
Content courtesy of NAHB.
Jayne O’Donnell of USA Today discusses the innovations and uses that today’s garages have. Garages are no longer just for your cars or the storage place that never sees the light of day. They are becoming functional and organized. Maybe it’s time for you to get your garage in order and renovate. Let HomeServicesLink help you do just that.
The garage is going more high-tech, high-gloss and high-end at many houses.
But it doesn’t have to be upscale to be functional or fun.
Forget dusty gray concrete, exposed wall beams and a broken down TV in the corner. Many of today’s garages have granite-like floors, cabinets that would be at home in pricey kitchens, and audio and video that can rival home theaters.
Garages offer a way to expand a house’s living area and storage space without new construction. The home storage and organization market will total about $9 billion in 2015, and about $2 billion of that will be products purchased for the garage, which represents the fastest growing segment, according to a 2011 report by the the business research company Freedonia Group.
Whirlpool-owned Gladiator GarageWorks, which sells products including storage cabinets and garage floors, sees room for growth, because only 35 percent of garages made for at least two cars have room for more than one, says Tim Keaton, the company’s marketing, brand and product chief.
“Man caves have always been popular, but with the ever increasing size of rec rooms and kids’ playrooms, the man has nowhere to go,” says Todd Shuster, the custom audio and video manager at Abt Electronics. “Enter the garage, a place that can be a shrine to your favorite football team, your Harley, or sports car.”
The growing attention to garages started, not surprisingly, in Detroit, says says Tim Keaton of Whirlpool-owned Gladiator GarageWorks. First, garages were strictly functional as a place to store tools. Then came “form and function,” before it became what’s increasingly a family hangout.
“When people need space, it’s the only place to go,” he says.
Garage uses range from the mundane – like storage – to transformations that turn the space into art-like galleries featuring cars. Somewhere in between lie the more traditional man caves with refrigerators, couches and wide-screen TVs, or studios for homeowners who love to paint, sculpt or garden.
Men with renovated garages often tell Phil Berg, author and photographer for the book series “Ultimate Garages”: “I would live in my garage if my wife let me.”
Garage, sweet garage
For John Weinberger, that would hardly be a hardship. His 3,500-square-foot garage in Naperville, Ill., is the same size as his house. It’s so comfortable, in fact, that he and wife Lisa lived there for five months recently while their home was being renovated. Lisa says she misses it.
It helps that the couple share a love of cars. John, the retired founder of the Continental chain of Chicago-area car dealerships, used to race cars and still fixes them. He recently taught a grandson to rebuild an engine. Lisa has worked in dealer promotions and races cars as well. The couple actually met at a toll booth. John was scrounging around for change and Lisa lent him 40 cents.
The Weinbergers regularly host car clubs and parties in what’s really a series of garages that includes a party room filled with automotive memorabilia that sits on a black-and-white checkered floor. That room leads into the part of the garage that houses Weinberger’s collection of 30 classic and exotic cars that he, like many other auto enthusiasts, got tired of being separated from.
“Instead of reading the paper, I go out in the garage and tinker,” says Weinberger. “But it’s more of a museum than a mechanic’s shop.”
Livable garage space can include cars — or not. When people room is in short supply, less valuable cars usually move outside. The transition from junk-filled eyesore to high-tech hangout can be a gradual one. The first step, says Keaton, is to organize what’s there. Recognizing the trend toward garage living, the company has been making their storage cabinets more similar to the styles and finishes used inside houses.
Housing codes in many areas of the country require that garages have drywall of a certain width to help keep any car fires from spreading into homes. That gets homeowners partway toward having an enclosed living — or, at least, entertaining — area. If they have to add drywall anyway, Mike Gacek of LaMantia Building and Construction in Brookfield, Ill., recommends spending the extra $900 or so to add insulation. Then, the addition of a small heating unit and ceiling fans can make it a four-season room in much of the country.
Because well-heeled car enthusiasts like the Weinbergers often collect cars like others might collect art, they don’t want their masterpieces hidden away. But even those with just one classic — or simply old — car that they enjoying looking at will sometimes renovate their houses and garages to offer a better view.
While Berg was building a replica Porsche in his garage in the ‘90s, he added a glass door in the back of the house so he could pull the car out of the garage and admire “the fruits of my labor” while standing in his kitchen.
DEAR TIM: Spring is here and so are the incessant heavy rains. I have several places near my house where water ponds. This can’t be a good thing for my house, as I constantly am battling water in my basement and part of the house that has a crawlspace under it. My lot isn’t really that flat, so I’m at a loss as to what’s going on. Do I have to call a professional to solve this issue, or can I just add soil to fill in the low spots? What are my options? Marion R., Evansville, IN
DEAR MARION: While I don’t have accurate statistics to support my feelings, I suspect you’re in a vast majority of homeowners who have varying degrees of poor drainage issues on their land or near their homes. You’re correct in assuming that ponding water is not a good thing for houses.
My college degree was in geology. I gravitated to two disciplines within geology: geomorphology and hydrogeology. Geomorph, as we students affectionately called it, is the study of the Earth’s surface features. Hydrogeology is the study of ground or subsurface water, or at least that’s what we focused on the three years I was a geology student.
If you think about the Earth on a very large scale and take into consideration gravity, you quickly discover that Mother Nature is doing her best to constantly carry all soil, rock, your house, your car, your possessions and you down and into the oceans. She’s a very patient woman, but she’s also got a split personality as her evil twin is constantly building mountains where two crustal plates crash into one another. This is why the Earth has dry land that we build upon.
What does all this have to do with the water at and around your home? Simple. If you could look at a topographic map of your lot before it was developed, and in many locations these old maps are available, you’d see that your lot was shaped differently than it is now.
Your builder, or possibly the subdivision developer, undoubtedly moved dirt on your lot to prepare it for building your home. This process disturbed the natural slope of your lot as virtually no undisturbed land is perfectly flat. Almost all land has some natural fall to it that’s caused by natural erosion. When you do encounter marshy land, it’s because of some temporary geomorphological process. Lakes are a great example. You can find marshes next to lakes. Realize that lakes are temporary geological features. Mother Nature is constantly trying to fill lakes in.
Adding soil to the low spots is usually not a good method to fix poor drainage problems. Ponding water on your lot tells me that you don’t have low-slope culverts surrounding your house like a moat surrounds a castle. These depressions, or culverts, should have been created by the builder so surface water always flows around your house to the towards the lowest spot of land on your lot.
To provide great drainage around your home, you should always have the ground slope away from your home. The building code used to require that the ground should have 6 inches of fall in the first 10 feet of horizontal run away from your home. That can be confusing to some.
All it means is that within 10 feet of your foundation, the ground should slope at least 6 inches. This change in elevation could happen within a foot, meaning it would be a very visible slope very close to your foundation walls.
The builder should have then created an artificial channel around and away from your home that also has a slope to it. The water flowing away from your foundation would enter this channel and then flow, by gravity, completely around your home. There should never be any ponding in this shallow channel. A slope of at least 1/8 inch per foot is required. More slope is better if you can tolerate it on your lot.
Surface water is but one challenge around your home. You also need to deal with subsurface water that flows through the soil towards your foundation and crawlspace walls. You can capture and divert this subsurface water by digging a narrow trench in the center of the artificial channel around your home.
This channel should be about 2 feet deep and 6 inches wide. The bottom of the trench should be parallel with the top of the artificial channel until it gets around your home. The trench extends past your home towards the lowest point of your lot. Once the trench passes your house, the slope can be reduced so the pipe eventually pops out of the ground.
You install a 1 inch layer of rounded gravel that’s the size of large acorns into the bottom of the trench. Perforated drain pipe is laid on this gravel. The entire trench is then filled with the rounded gravel. This system readily collects subsurface water before it attacks your home. Water will flow from the end of the drainpipe where it eventually breaks through the surface of the ground.
Article content by Tim Carter, Ask The Builder.