Hardwood, tile, stone or other hard-surfaced floors can add much value to your home, and their low-maintenance is appealing to many people. Take these few simple tips to heart, and your floor will stay clean and beautiful for years to come.
If your floor is seemingly dull or listless, use a solution of 3 cups of vinegar to half-gallon of warm water for a quick and easy mop towards renewing your floor. The only exception to this is a marble floor, you should never use vinegar on marble floors. Apply the vinegar solution to the floor with your wet mop, and allow to dry. It will make your floor sparkle once again and bring it back to life.
Use a Squeegee
Ceramic tile floors are beautiful and functional. They have a tendency, however, to dull over time. This can be particularly unattractive for more polished tiles in bathrooms. The trick to keeping your ceramic tile shining is a squeegee as used for cleaning windows. Use your wet mop to spread a warm, soapy solution on the floor. Put the squeegee on an extended pole to save your back. Then draw the squeegee across the floor, removing the soapy water and leaving a clean floor. After each stroke, wipe the squeegee with a dry towel, and continue.
Iron off Wax
When candle wax drips on your hard floor, it can seem impossible to get every last bit. However, it really isn’t that difficult. If the wax is still wet, use an ice cube to cool and harden it. Then use a credit card, plastic spatula, or dull knife to remove the wax. Finally, spread at least a dozen layers of paper towel over the affected area and run a warm iron over the towels. The wax will soften and seep into the towels. If the paper towels saturate through, be sure to change them to prevent damage to your iron.
Do Away with Hairspray
Hairspray will quickly build up on your hard floor and dull the finish. And because of its inherent sticky qualities, normal soapy floor cleaning solutions don’t tend to cut through the build-up. Instead, use a clean cloth or sponge and ammonia to remove the hairspray. Be sure the area is well-ventilated. Never use ammonia on a marble floor; hairspray is just as damaging for marble floors, so avoid the hairspray in the vicinity of marble altogether.To clean marble floors, use plain
water or a specially prepared solution specifically designed for cleaning marble.
Salt your Broken Eggs
A dropped egg on your hard floor can seem impossible to clean. However, it’s actually relatively simple. Pour table salt over the spilled egg. The salt with absorb the goo of the egg and allow you to quickly mop up the mess without spreading egg whites all over your floor.
Freeze Off Gum
If you have a gum chewer in your house or have had the misfortune of stepping on some in the parking lot, you’re sure to know what a problem it is to clean gum off of your hard floor. Next time, put an ice cube on top of the gum to chill and harden it almost to the point of freezing. Once the gum is well-chilled, it will lift off easily with a plastic spatula or credit card.
If you floor is looking dull, you can use a piece of wax paper to bring back its shine. Simple place the wax paper under a dry mop, and mop the affected area. You may need to use more than one piece of wax paper depending on the size of your floor. Use caution when walking on the floor after this tip, though, as it may be quite slick at first.
Seal Fresh Grout and Save Time Later
Grout is an extremely porous material and, as such, absorbs spills quickly. In order to save yourself countless hours of time and energy, be sure to seal the grout of your new tile floor with a high-quality grout sealant purchased at your local home improvement store. These sealants won’t last forever, so be sure to re-apply as necessary.
If you take the time to keep your hard floors clean, they will grace your home with beauty and charm for years to come. And contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t take a ton of time to do so. Our quick tips will help you beat some of the most common problems with cleaning your floors and instead leave you time to do something that you truly enjoy.
Article and cleaning tips from Mrs Clean. Posted 01/13/2013.
We all want to provide natural wind bearers and shade to our home, plus trees do so many good things, but when
selecting a replacement tree for your lawn, think twice before you plant these in your yard. Check with you local arborist or nursery for the best type of tree for your yard and you’ll have years to enjoy it. The following are trees that most of us should avoid.
1. Silver maple (Acer saccharinum)
Big, fast-growing, and a dandy shade tree, silver maple is widespread in eastern states and the Midwest. Unfortunately, the speed at which the tree grows makes for weak, brittle wood that may break during severe storms. The shallow root system invades sewage pipes and drain fields, and is notorious for cracking driveways and walkways.
2. Ash (Fraxinus)
Sturdy and tough, the many varieties of ash that populate North America are some of our most beloved trees. Professional baseball bats are made from its wood — how American is that? But the venerable ash is threatened by the emerald ash borer, a tiny beetle that’s on track to wipe out the species. If you’re looking for a long-term tree for your yard, look elsewhere.
3. Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides)
The aspen is found in northern climes and higher elevations. Its white bark and gently vibrating leaves are attractive, but its root system is insidious, sending up dozens of suckers that relentlessly try to turn into new trees. Once established, it’s war. In fact, the largest living organism in the world is a Colorado aspen root system called Pando. It weighs 6,600 tons and is thought to be 80,000 years old. Try digging that out!
4. Hybrid Poplars (Populus)
Hybrid poplars are created by cross-pollinating two or more poplar species together. The result can be a fast-growing tree that looks good in your yard — for a while. Hybrid poplars are especially susceptible to diseases, and most won’t last more than 15 years. This poor fellow is dying … quickly.
5. Willow (Salix)
With its long, slender branches that hang down like Rapunzel’s tresses, the willow is one of the most recognizable of all trees. Beautiful on the outside, yes, but the willow has an aggressive, water-hungry root system that terrorizes drain fields, sewer lines, and irrigation pipes. The wood is weak and prone to cracking, and the tree is relatively short-lived, lasting only about 30 years.
Imported from Australia and popularized for their speedy growth — some varieties will shoot up 10 feet in a year — the eucalyptus has a bad rap for suddenly and unexpectedly dropping big, heavy, resin-filled branches. In some areas of Australia, campers are warned not to pitch tents under eucalyptus trees. Its showy bark peels off annually and adds to seasonal maintenance chores.
7. Bradford pear (Pyrus calleryana)
The Bradford pear was imported to the U.S. from China in the early 1900s as replacement for orchard trees that were dying. With its compact shape and profusion of spring blossoms, the Bradford pear became a suburban favorite — until folks realized that it was highly prone to splitting and cracking when it reached maturity. And those blossoms? They’re on the stinky side of the fragrance scale.
8. Mountain cedar (Juniperus ashei)
Stay away from the mountain cedar in late winter. This bushy tree, native to the south central U.S., releases massive amounts of pollen during the cooler months, causing severe allergic reactions in many people. Even if you don’t have allergies, planting one in your yard may affect your neighbors.
9. Mulberry (Morus)
Big surface roots, lots of pollen, messy fruit, and shade so dense that grass refuses to grow underneath. What’s to like about the mulberry? If you’re a silkworm, the answer is: Plenty! The mulberry is the silkworm’s only source of food. Silkworm farmers should plant away! Otherwise, you’ll be happier with a different kind of tree in your yard.
10. Black walnut (Juglans nigra)
Native to North America, this well-known shade tree produces prized cabinet- and furniture-making wood. It also produces pollen and plenty of fruit that’ll drive you, well, nuts when you have to clean it all up in the fall. It’s true sinister side, however, is that it secretes growth-inhibiting toxins that kill nearby plants, wreaking havoc on flower beds and vegetable gardens.
11. Leyland cypress (Cupressocyparis leylandii)
These fast-growing evergreen trees are favored for their ability to quickly create a living privacy screen. However, they require constant upkeep and trimming to keep them healthy, and as they get taller they’re increasingly likely to uproot during storms. The center of the tree forms a mass of dried twigs and branches that are considered such a fire hazard that many communities officially caution residents against planting them.
Information from houselogic.com by John Riha.
Walking through a house a few times while you’re thinking about making an offer on it will give you an idea of how much you like the house, but not an accurate estimate regarding its energy usage. You might notice the occasional drafty door or a window that needs sealing, but there’s no way to tell just how well-insulated or efficient a home is during a walkthrough. Have no fear! There is a way to eliminate unpleasant surprises regarding efficiency before it’s too late: get a free energy assessment on the home before you take the plunge into buying it.
Contact the Local Utility Company
The local utility company probably gives free assessments to its customers, or at least an average usage for the last calendar year or so. Though you are not their customer yet, the people currently living in the house are and will have access to that information. You would need to set up a time with the current owners for the assessment anyway, so you may as well see if they would be willing to speak with the utility company to have a free assessment done. From there
they can share the results or allow you to be part of the process.
Schedule an Assessment with Energy Service Corps
Energy Service Corps is a group that has an overall goal of saving energy, saving the environment and saving you money. This is a great free option because they not only come out and assess the energy efficiency of your home, but they’ll also seal cracks around windows and doors to block drafts, change out your older bulbs for energy-saving models and make other small adjustments that will lower the cost of your utilities right away. As part of the assessment, they will give suggestions on other changes you should make to see greater improvements in energy efficiency. However, you should be aware they are limited in where they can go to provide their services.
Do It Yourself
You can do some informal assessments yourself. Ask the current homeowner about their energy usage, or call their utility company for an average use from the previous year. Keep in mind, this method will not tell you what areas of the house need updating or changing in order to create a more energy-efficient environment. Some ways you can assess the energy levels yourself is to feel along the walls for cool patches to determine where more insulation is needed. Along those same lines, feel along the windows and door frames and note where leaks are. Another thing you can do is peek into the attic to see about the state of the insulation. If it’s on the skimpy side, put that on a list of things that would need updating. If the basement is unfinished, check to see if the ceiling has any insulation which will impede the coolness of the basement from seeping up through the floors of your main level rooms. After your self-assessment is finished, you can determine if you need to hire a professional to determine if there are larger issues or be satisfied with your findings.
Know Why an Energy Assessment is a Good Idea
Before you move into a home, you’ll want to get an energy assessment so you can either know what improvements you’d like the owners to make as part of your offer on the house, or so you know what changes you’ll want to make once you do move in. Some things that are more serious, such as needing to replace windows and siding, may be more convenient if they’re completed before you start moving. Other, less pressing items such as caulking your windows or adding
insulation to your attic, can probably wait until after you’ve purchased the house and moved in. Updating your home in small ways can lower your electric bills year round and impact the environment by lowering it’s carbon footprint.
Learn What Assessors Will Look For
Some assessors do tests to see how air-tight your home is. They mark where air leaks through, and can tell you the best way to eliminate those leaks. Others may do what is called a thermographic inspection that will measure the temperature levels along the walls of your home. This can be done indoors or outdoors depending, depending upon the season.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that, in order to increase the efficiency of the home and lower your energy bills, you must make the changes suggested by the assessor. Most changes that can be made to lower bills are relatively affordable and easy to do on your own. Don’t consider a house to be a lost cause just because it is not currently living up to it’s full potential in terms of efficiency, as you may be able to make small adjustments that have a big impact overall.
Article by Amanda Kostina of White Fence Savings.
Although, we are just now beginning to enjoy the warmth of Spring, it won’t be long until the summer heat is here. So by taking some steps now, you can keep your home cooler in the summer and reduce your energy bills to. It goes without saying, be sure that you have adequate fiberglass insulation in your attic, but as a James Dulley explains, it’s not only the insulation but the air flow and reflective properties of foil that will help.
Question: I have plenty of fiberglass insulation on the attic floor, but it still seems as though the ceiling is warm on sunny days and the air conditioner runs like crazy. What can I do to keep it cooler? – Steve P.
If you put you hand against the ceiling, you would be surprised how warm it actually is. This will increase your cooling electric bills. This warmth also radiates to your body making you feel uncomfortably warm even at a reasonably cool room temperature. When this happens people tend to set the thermostat even lower which further increase the electric bills. Every degree the air conditioner thermostat is lowered can increase your electricity bills by up to three percent.
What you are experiencing is radiant heat transfer from the hot roof to the ceiling below. A dark roof can reach 150 degrees in the afternoon sun. Radiant heat transfer is unique in that it increases at a very fast rate as the temperature increases. For example, a roof at 150 degrees can radiate more than 10 times as much heat to the ceiling below as a roof at 120 degrees.
Standard fiberglass insulation is effective for blocking conductive heat transfer, such as the heat from inside your house to the cold attic during the winter. It is not very effective for blocking the radiant heat from a hot roof. Radiant heat from the roof penetrates through the insulation to the ceiling below. Even the insulation itself gets warm and can actually hold the heat in the ceiling once it gets warm.
The best method to block most of the heat is by installing reflective foil underneath the roof and installing adequate attic ventilation. The foil blocks the direct path for the radiant heat to the ceiling below. Astronauts’ space suits use multiple layers of foil to block heat flow. The attic ventilation will cool the roof and carry the excess heat away by natural air flow (hot air is less dense and rises).
I installed attic foil and more attic ventilation in my own home. The temperature in the second-floor bedrooms was immediately 10 degrees cooler in the afternoon and early evening. The attic air exhausting through the new roof vents was so hot, you could not hold your hand in it for very long without discomfort.
Attic foil is commonly referred to as reflective foil because it looks reflective similar to any aluminum foil. It actually works not by reflecting the heat back up to the roof, but by it low-emissivity (similar to low-e windows) properties on its bottom surface. The foil gets hot, but its shiny low-e surface does not easily radiate the heat down. This is why room radiators for heating are a dull dark color instead of shiny so they radiate heat more effectively.
You can find attic foil in long rolls which are about four feet wide at many building supply outlets. It is similar to regular kitchen aluminum foil, except it is reinforced with kraft paper or a nylon mesh or grid so the staples don’t pull through. The least expensive type is kraft paper with foil on only one side. Although this may sound strange, because the low-e properties are most important, the shiny side should face down.
Staple the foil up under the roof rafters. The neatness of the job is not critical. It is only important that every part of the roof surface is blocked from the floor below. Leave a small gap above the insulation near the floor and at the ridge so the attic and roof are well ventilated. This is particularly effective with a continuous roof ridge vent.
Another option is to have the underside of the roof sprayed with a special reflective, low-e paint. It has the appearance of aluminum paint. This has a similar effect to the foil to reduce the radiant heat from the underside of the roof. If you are replacing the roof sheathing or building a new home, sheathing is available with a foil backing already applied so additional foil is not needed.
Installing a ridge vent in the attic is most effective. The hot air naturally rises to the peak of the roof where it is exhausted. Ridge vent is not difficult to install. It is available in long rolls or as rigid sections which are nailed over a slot along the roof ridge beam. It is also important to install adequate inlet vent area along the soffit under the roof overhang.
Now that you know what to do, contact HomeServicesLink. We’ll connect you with screened, reliable and insured contractors in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky to assist you with keeping your home cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
Stormwater runoff can quickly drain a homeowner’s wallet. The flooding erodes yards, soaks basements, pollutes
streams and wastes a precious resource.
But rainscaping – an integrated system of directed water flow and settling basins – can convert those losses into gains by providing new wildlife habitat, beautifying properties and in some cases providing food for dinner.
“It’s becoming a pattern of capture and reuse rather than simply moving the water off,” said Pat Sauer, Rainscaping Iowa Program administrator. “There are more options out there than just rain gardens. We’re looking more comprehensively at what can be done on the landscape.”
Numerous state and local groups are holding workshops and providing rebates for residents who add such refinements to their properties as rain barrels, cisterns, permeable paving, settling ponds, green roofs and berms. “Iowa is providing training for professionals – certified rainscapers – who are designing some of those programs,” Sauer said.
“Many of these agencies also build large-scale infiltration systems projects on public lands,” said Cleo Woelfle-Erskine, who along with Apryl Uncapher wrote “Creating Rain Gardens.” (Timber Press, 2012).
Landscapers often merge art with science. “In Portland, Ore., many parking lots and curb strips sport swales (depressions) and retention basins, often decorated with sculptures of leaping fish,” Woelfle-Erskine said.
Rainscaping, though, can be expensive and complicated. So why bother?
“A rain garden is not only a beautiful, low-maintenance, water-saving garden, but can additionally provide habitat and forage for local fauna, sustain select edibles for harvest, reduce pollution, flooding and erosion to nearby rivers and become a daily reminder of the importance of water conservation,” Uncapher said.
Yards vary, and rainscaping designs must be site specific. Some suggestions:
- Perk. Conduct a soil test to see if your yard will percolate (drain) rainwater, Sauer said. “If it doesn’t perk, then all you’ll be left with is standing water. If your yard is hard, like concrete, you’ll have to improve the soil.”
- Plant native. Prairie plants and woodland seedlings with deep roots help soak up stormwater, filter pollutants and recharge groundwater levels, Sauer said. “Using native plants also helps ensure they’ll survive their new setting.”
- Installing a residential rain garden, which is a saucer-like depression in the ground that captures rain from a downspout, driveway or patio, is the simplest and least expensive way to retain stormwater, Woelfle-Erskine said. But here’s his kicker: “They won’t work if your yard is uphill from your house.”
- Use permeable materials like bricks, paving blocks or gravel on driveways and walkways, with spacing that allows water to seep into the soil.
- Edibles. Berries, asparagus, fiddlehead ferns, fruit trees, winter squash, Brussels sprouts, and culinary and tea herbs can be creative additions in the right rain garden sites, but use them with care. “Be aware of where the water is flowing into your rain garden from,” Uncapher said. “Rain gardens serving to intersect runoff from potentially polluted surfaces are not ideal for edibles unless soil and water nutrients are tested and monitored.”
Rain gardens and related rainscaping features give homeowners a chance to be part of the stormwater and pollution solution, while serving aesthetic and functional purposes, said Bob Spencer, RainWise program manager for the City of Seattle.
“Not only are the gardens attractive landscaping, they are protecting our water bodies and the creatures that live there,” he said.
Article featured in The Cincinnati Enquirer by Dean Fosdick of Associated Press, 03/08/2013.