Month: April 2013

How to know if your home has foundation problems

Early one morning, you go to the basement to do a load of laundry and the door sticks a little more than normal. It always sticks, but today is more noticeable. You don’t think much of it; just make a mental note to take a look at it over the weekend. 

Sometimes a sticking door is not just a sticking door. It’s a warning that your home may have bigger issues. Old home, new home… it does not matter. Both can develop foundation problems. If not addressed quickly, you may find yourself in a dire and very expensive situation. 

The most famous example of a building with foundation problems is the Leaning Tower of Pisa. The Tower had issues from the beginning: the soil shifted during the first phase of construction and they tried to make adjustments in order to complete the project. Modern techniques have stabilized the structure, ensuring that the landmark will be available for tourists to take goofy pictures for the next couple of centuries. 

Look for these warning signs

  • Crawl space moisture

  • Uneven floors

  • Cracks in the brick

  • Bulging, rotating or leaning walls

  • Corners of siding/soffits that are not flush or are separating

  • Dislocated or broken plumbing, wiring or utility lines

  • Walls separating from windows, doors and ceiling

  • gaps between cabinets and walls

  • vertical and horizontal wall cracks

  • cracks over doors and windows as well

  • Problems closing doors and windows

  • Cracks in floor vinyl or tile

  • Uneven roof line or ceiling line

  • Leaning chimneys 

What causes foundation issues?

A house gets it from all sides. Both environmental and manmade factors can contribute to your home’s foundation issues. 


Hot, dry wind and intense heat will often cause the soil to contract beneath the foundation. 


Tree roots dehydrate the soil beneath a home and the soil shrinks underneath the house. 

Poor soil conditions

Organic components and debris may cause consolidation over time. 

Plumbing leaks

Whether you have cast iron or PVC pipes, both can develop moisture to accumulate under your house. 

Improper drainage

Improper drainage or waterproofing can cause the build-up of excess moisture, which can erode or consolidate the soil. 

Inferior construction materials

Insufficient steel and inferior concrete will contribute to movement. 

Building site preparation

Especially during building of subdivisions, soil moved from one area of the lot to another may not be compacted sufficiently when home is built. 

Fixing failing foundation can be expensive, and it only gets more expensive as time goes by. It can affect your home’s value when it’s time to sell. If you notice any of the signs of foundation problems, call a specialist to come out for an inspection.

Paint like a pro

Painting is one of those home improvement projects that can give your room a fresh, new look. It can be done quickly, doesn’t cost much and you can do it yourself. 

It can also be frustrating and difficult, which is why there are so many professional painters out there. Here are 12 of their secrets. 

Prep your new roller covers

You can avoid leaving fuzz on your freshly painted walls by taking a couple of minutes to wash new roller covers before using them the first time. Use a little bit of dishwashing soap and water. And you don’t have to worry about letting them dry. 

Avoid flashing

If you have to patch areas of the wall with drywall compound, those areas will look dull compared to other parts of the wall because the material is porous and absorbs paint. Use a primer to seal the patch so the paint won’t sink in and look dull. 

Clean all surfaces

Use a painting degreaser to clean the grime off the wall before painting. Paint won’t stick to greasy or dirty areas that build up on your walls over time. This is especially necessary in kitchens and bathrooms. 


The time you spend in prep cuts down on mistakes. Use high quality painters tape. When you’re taping, make sure not to stretch the tape; it can leave areas where paint can seep in. As you’re taping, run a putty knife or piece of cardboard over the tape to press the tape down to stop any paint bleeds. 

Don’t tape windows

Don’t bother taping. It takes a lot of time. Paint ends up on the glass and you end up scraping them anyway. 

Pulling tape

Pro grade tape doesn’t leave a residue and can stay on the wall for a few days. Paint starts to dry immediately and how long it takes to completely dry depends on the type of paint, the climate and the time of year you’re painting. Wait 24 hours to pull the tape, but before you do, score the paint on the edge with a blade to avoid tearing off pieces of dry paint. 

Use cotton drop cloths

Plastic is slippery, even if you tape them down. Any paint you spill on plastic stays wet, which means it can get tracked to the other parts of the house. Although they’re made to prevent damage, large spills can seep through canvas, so clean up any spills with paper towels. 

Order counts

Paint the trim first, then the ceilings and walls. You don’t have to worry about taping the walls when you’re painting the trim. Same goes for the ceiling. Saves a ton of prep time. 

Cutting edges

Brush marks are likely to show in corners and areas next to trim. Brush on paint in those areas and immediately go over the area while the paint’s still wet. 

Finish a wall before starting another

Many DIYers will paint the corner first, then paint out to the walls. You’ll get better, more seamless results my cutting in one corner and rolling it out. 

Boxing your paint

This helps you achieve consistent color, which may vary from can to can, even though you bought the paint at the same store on the same day. Boxing the paint is mixing two cans together. Use a five gallon bucket to do this and paint from the bucket rather than the tray. 

Load the brush

Don’t scrape the brush after dipping it in the paint. Load up the first 1-1/2 inches of the brush, then tap it a couple of times to avoid drips.



Tips for making your water heater more efficient

You never think about your water heater until it is no longer heating water. Your water heater is one of the biggest energy wasters in your home.

There’s more bad news: Your water heater gets less efficient as it gets older. They’re not cheap, so you can’t just replace them when they get less efficient, and there’s no sense in replacing a water heater that isn’t leaking.

The good news is that there are several things you can do to make your water heater more efficient and extend its lifespan. These things are fairly easy to do, won’t take much time and won’t cost a lot.

Clean your water heater tank once a year

Over time, sediment and deposits build up in the tank of your water heater, which makes it far less efficient. Cleaning the tank is not as big a chore as you might think. Flushing sediment from the tank improves efficiency and longevity.

Insulate the tank and hot water pipes

By simply insulating the first six feet of pipe will make a huge difference, and adding insulation to the tank reduces heat loss and can reduce your energy costs by 10 percent or more.

Turn down the thermostat

Most people set the thermostat too high. Even if you like a hot shower, you can set your thermostat at 120 degrees in order to have comfortable water and reduce waste. You can use a meat thermometer to make sure your readings are accurate by checking the water temperature at several locations in your home.

Check the anode rod

An anode rod is a sacrificial rod installed in a water heater that protects the tank from corrosion. It attracts the corrosive properties in the water, which will corrode the rod instead of the lining of your tank. A used-up rod is far cheaper to replace than a new heater.




The art of hanging pictures

The room is not complete, it is not truly “your” space, until you hang some artwork up in your home. What you do with your walls should say something about you.

The biggest decision, as always, is what to hang. Photos… paintings… mirrors… collections… singles… groups… store-bought… DIY… the possibilities are truly endless. The great thing, though, about it is that you can change it quickly and easily. So you can choose something trendy that you love at the moment, then change your mind a few months down the road. 

What hardware to use

You can use a nail or a screw, but don’t! Use a picture hook. They’re designed to redistribute the weight of the artwork and push the weight back into the wall. The nail pulls. Not only does it look funny, it can cause damage to the wall. Picture hooks come in all sizes, they’re inexpensive, you can buy them anywhere, they work and they save on damage to your wall.

Where to hang a picture

The art you choose should fit the space you have. Big wall = big art. Don’t hang a single 8X10 on a big, blank wall just to get something up there. By the same token, while a three-piece collage would be stunning on a large wall, on a small wall, it will look cramped.

How high to hang art

Eye level. But how high is that? It really depends on the wall and the room. If people are going to be seated most of the time, like in a dining room, eye level tends to be lower, so you’ll want to hang your artwork lower. The rule of thumb used by art galleries is to have the center of the piece 60-65 inches above the floor. From a visual standpoint, error on the side of too low rather than too high when hanging your artwork

How low to hang art

But how low is too low? Just a few inches from the baseboard works in certain areas when you’re hanging art in a cluster. You don’t want to have a single piece down by the floor. Odd spaces such as under stairways can be made visually appealing with low-hanging pictures. Impact aside, though… be realistic. If you have small children, there’s not much sense in hanging artwork low where it can be touched, hit, bumped or destroyed.

Making the space visually appealing is the key. Barren walls make your home feel cold and uninviting. Be bold; be daring. Take risks. Grab a hammer and some hangers and get started!