March 2012

Spring hinges

What types of spring hinges are out there?

A spring hinge is a type of hinge that is used when you would like to be sure that a door will close completely.  Spring hinges come in various types depending on where the hinge will be used. A spring hinge is commonly called a self closing hinge.  Self closing hinges typically come with a set screw that has an Allen wrench head to easily adjust the tension of the spring and the close rate of the hinge.  The tension will need to be adjusted to be more kid-friendly or even adult-friendly if the door closes too fast.  Most times a spring loaded hinge will only be used in the place of one of the normal butt hinges. 

Home Improvement Can Increase Value

In a world where everyone is worried about their mortgage going underwater, i.e. the house isn’t worth as much as you owe, it’s easy to just throw up your hands and give up. I mean, you can’t sell it and the value keeps dropping month after month.

While you can’t recoup everything lost with a few simple home improvement jobs, you’d be surprised how much your value will increase with just some aesthetic patches. For example, if you home is a little worse for wear and there a small holes in the wall from furniture being moved or scuff marks on the floor, then they can have a tremendous impact on your home value.

Keep Your Cool

Summer cooling maintenance.

While some of us are still cranking up the heat, summer is just around the corner. After the few mild spring days pass it will be time to turn the a/c dial to high and try to keep our cool. Now is the time to make sure your air conditioner is ready to take on the summer load. If you wait until the temperatures are high enough to cook an egg, you'll likely pay more and wait longer for any necessary repairs.

Cabinet hardware

Update your kitchen with new cabinet hardware

Your kitchen has been looking a little bit old and tired.  It’s time to update the look but you’d rather not go to all the trouble and cost of a complete renovation.  Replacing the existing cabinet hardware is a less expensive and much less labor intensive way to update the look and feel of your current kitchen.

Quality cabinet hardware is by no means cheap.  When compared to the cost of a complete remodel however, it’s not that expensive.  A classic example of how hardware can update the look, take the bright brass color that was quite popular not that long ago.  Now the popular color is satin nickel or pewter.  Replace the hardware with satin nickel or pewter and you’ve instantly updated the look and feel of your kitchen.  While you’re replacing the hardware, you’ll want to match the hardware to the faucet to be consistent with the look.

Never Know What You've Got

Growing up, we technically had a dishwasher, but it only worked about half of the time. My mom knew she was more than capable of washing dishes by hand and using the broken dishwasher as a giant drying rack of sorts. We’d eventually get it fixed, but it’d break again a few months or a year later. After I moved out on my own, there was nary a dishwasher to be seen. I’ve dreamed of no longer having to hand wash dishes. Washing them is absolutely my least favorite chore and I would rather do everything else as long as I didn’t have to do the dishes. However, the four or five apartments I’ve called home in the past 15 years never came equipped with one and I’ve just had to tough it out.

The Magic of Murals

Turning your walls into art.

In many cases, I see a painted wall as a backdrop to the rest of the room's décor. For this reason I tend to select light, neutral colors that brighten a room without detracting from the items within. Eggshell, pastel peaches and blues, cream or even ivory white are my paint colors of choice. But sometimes a wall needs a bit more. In fact, sometimes the paint on the wall should provide the entire focal point of the room.

Think About Renting Before You Buy

There are many improvements you can do at home that are pretty east, but require a unique set of tools. These tools tend to be large and expensive and only professionals but them because they use the tools enough to make it a financially safe decision.

If you basement backs up once every five years, you’re not going to go out a buy a motorized drain snake to clear the pipe. So what happens is, you hire someone to come in and fix the problem and it ends up costing less than the price of the equipment, but it’s still a hefty chunk of change.

Time Management 101

Well, the spring season is upon us, and with it comes an activity almost every evening of the weekend. Sports, clubs and family outings are beginning to eat away at the weekends. The busyness becomes all too apparent when I see the unwashed laundry in a pile and the dirty dishes in the sink.

Types of door handle sets

What handle set do I need?

You need to replace the handle sets on your doors at home but you are unsure which type you’ll need and the handle sets at the hardware store have various different names associated with them.  What type of handle set will do the job that you need it to?  The names on door handle sets refer to the function of the set.  Just keep in mind what you would like the set to do for you and you’ll be fine.  Let’s take a look at the common names used for clarification:
  • Passage- A passage handle set has no lock at all.  It is simply a door knob.  These sets are also known as hall/ closet sets because that is mostly where they are used.  Usually, halls and or closets are not locked up allowing for free “passage” into them.

Vacuuming Doesn't Suck Anymore

New Vacuum Excitement

I’m a rare type of person, I sort of like to clean, but I could take it or leave it…except for vacuuming. I find something oddly encouraging about running my vacuum over my home’s floors. I suppose it has a lot to do with the fact that, to me anyway, vacuuming leaves a much more noticeable path of completion than many other cleaning activities. I’ve always been the type of person that could encourage myself to do something as long as I could visually see what exactly I was accomplishing.

Is Carpet Cleaning Necessary?

I've talked before about cleaning up after stains to keep your carpet looking good, but I've never tacked the question of actual carpet cleaning. By carpet cleaning, I am talking about the regular maintenance of carpeting that is not stain related.


There are pros and cons to carpet cleaning, but if you want to keep you carpet looking as best it can and last longer, then you'll need to break down and have it cleaned. Even without staining, you're walking on the carpet day in and day out. You are tracking in dirt and grime from the outside and it is being embedded into the carpet.

Fasteners,bolts & screws

What fasteners should I use?

You need to fasten two pieces of wood together but what type of fasteners should you use?  Determining what type of fastener to use depends largely upon what application the fastening will be done in.  If you have enough room to swing a hammer a nail will do nicely.  If a risk of wood warping exists, then you may consider using a ring shank nail or spiral nail to keep the wood from pulling the nail out when warping occurs.  If being used in an outdoor application, consider a galvanized, aluminum, or stainless steel fastener. 

Screws or bolts can be used for jobs where swinging a hammer is impractical or where the job calls for a little bit of a heavier duty fastener.  Screws come in galvanized, stainless steel, aluminum, or ceramic coated steel for outdoor applications.

For holding heavier members together, such as attaching posts to skirt boards, a carriage bolt might work the best.  A carriage bolt has a rounded head with a square post directly under it to grab into the wood and keep it from turning as a nut and washer are threaded on at the opposite end.  These are available in zinc for interior applications as well as various finishes for exterior applications.

A hex bolt may be used in much the same manner as a carriage bolt except for the fact that the head is a hexagon shape to grasp with a wrench or socket as the nut and washer are tightened at the opposite end.  These also come in a variety of interior or exterior finishes.

Refurbishing Wood Furniture

Clean, stain, enjoy!

Do you have a scuffed table, a worn wood chair, or a shelf that has seen better days? I know I do. I have a beautiful little oak side table I picked up at a yard sale years ago. When I first got it, it was in pretty good condition. There were a few spots around the edges where the finish had worn thin, but nothing too noticeable. Eight years, four moves and two kids later, it's starting to look a bit worse for wear. The finish has worn through completely in some areas, while scratches mar others. The idea of painting over the beautiful wood grain seemed a waste, but I wasn't sure what else to do.

Maintaining Wood Furniture

Care and Cleaning

Real wood furniture, not that particle board junk you assemble yourself from Swedish instructions, lasts a lifetime. If you select fine quality wood in a classic design, your great-grandchildren may even pass it down to their children some day. Of course, all this depends on how well you take care of it.

Bad Product or Bad Review?

I’m in the market for a new vacuum cleaner and I started a bit of research online and I came to realize that I’m a review junkie. Whenever I buy any sort of appliance I spend days and maybe even weeks reading reviews on the product I’m thinking of buying and its competitors. Why spend that much money on something if it’s not going to work?

Where Are the Foreclosures?

"The key is to know where to look to find them."


Foreclosures are a big problem throughout the United States. Cities where jobs are gone and where the housing market's bubble a few years ago exploded are now left with countless properties that no one lives in and banks own. These are taxing communities. Yet, foreclosures can be one of the best investment opportunities for real estate investors or even home buyers. The key is to know where to look to find them.

Top Cities for Foreclosures

Again, you will find foreclosures in nearly every city in the US. In addition, they occur in urban areas as well as luxury neighborhoods, and everything in between. The following are some of the top cities facing the highest number of foreclosures, according to

·         The Milwaukee, Waukesha and West Allis areas of Wisconsin come in at the most with an average discount of home values on these properties of 57.9 percent. The average foreclosure here costs $77,592.

Blowtorch: Not Just For Handiwork

I have a small blowtorch in my garage that I like to occasionally use for home projects. Whenever I need a specific spot heated quickly, I get it out and it heats things up fast. While it’s primarily used for crafts and odd jobs around the house, my wife uses it in a very different place: the kitchen.

While not a professional chef, my wife’s culinary instincts are phenomenal. People are always asking her to cook for parties and bring dishes to events. It’s part of the reason why I’m a tad bit on the heavy side. It might be surprising some of the things she uses in the kitchen including my blowtorch.

One of the dishes my wife makes on a regular basis for parties and even occasionally private dining is crème brulee. It an amazing dessert, but you create a dark spot on the top through caramelizing. This means melting the sugars using a very high heat. What’s that heat source? My blow torch.

Housewarming Gift Idea: Unique Coaster

I must confess that I am a coaster junkie and if I were allowed free reign, I would probably have them scattered throughout the house. For the moment, I keep a couple out for display for when I'm expecting guests to come over. I realized when I thought about how much I like a variety of coasters that they would make an awesome gift for someone who is getting ready to move into a new home.

Paint or Stain?

More furniture finishing ideas.

After all the work of scraping and sanding, you may feel like your furniture painting project is just about done. While the prep work is vital to a good looking piece of restored furniture, your finish choice will play the most important role in the finished product. The wrong paint or stain can undo all your hard work and result in an ugly piece of wood.