Month: June 2013

Using anchors to hang objects in your new home

When you’re redecorating or when you move into a new home, the walls are a blank slate. This gives you the opportunity to hang everything wherever you want. If you’re hanging practically anything other than a picture, stock up on a couple of different sizes of drywall anchors. They’re inexpensive and do a good job of supporting items on the wall.

The problem is that they can be frustrating when you’re installing them. After all, you’re putting a hole in the wall that was just patched and painted. Many people are reluctant to do so and opt for nails. This can cause more damage if the object bends and pulls the nail.

No matter what kind you use, wall anchors work by going through the wall and spreading out to grip on the other side of the surface. These anchors are a necessity when you’re hanging heavy objects or items that will see a lot of use.

  • curtain rods
  • towel racks
  • light fixtures
  • mirrors
  • shelves
  • artwork
  • telephones
  • smoke detectors

A couple of things you must know in order to choose the right anchor: the kind of material and the weight of the object you want to hang. An anchor designed for hollow walls will not work well with solid walls, and vice versa. If you don’t use the correct anchor, it may feel secure at first, but will weaken over time and cause damage to the wall. Anchors have certain weight tolerances, so make sure to read the package to make sure you’re getting the correct anchor.

For very heavy objects, you’ll want to choose threaded toggle drywall anchors. They are made of metal and require you to drill a hole in the wall. The disadvantage is that they cannot be moved. When you remove the screw, the toggle will fall behind the wall.

For more common (and lighter) items, choose threaded drywall anchors. They come in several sizes and can be made of plastic (for drywall) or metal (for drywall or plaster). There are two advantages to the threaded anchors: 1. You don’t have to guess how large a hole to make; 2. It can be done with a screwdriver; no drill needed. They can hold up to 50 pounds. Remember, plastic is not indestructible; make sure to read the package before purchasing to make sure it will work on your wall. Metal anchors are usually stronger than plastic anchors and are better suited for heavy duty projects.

If you’re unsure, it’s always best to ask someone at your local hardware or home improvement store. Knowing the proper anchor will not only save you some headache and damage, it will save you some time and effort. Getting things up on the wall is the first step toward making a new house your home.

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Getting Your Home Ready for Vacation

This time of year is when families schedule vacations. If you’re planning to spend a week or two away, you need to make sure that your home is ready for the time it will be vacant. Here are a few things you should do around your home before going on vacation.

Leave keys with a trustworthy neighbor

In addition to collecting mail, a neighbor can also take a quick walk through to make sure there are no big disasters, such as a burst pipe.

Stop delivery of mail and newspapers

Nothing says “We’re gone!” like a full mailbox and a few days’ worth of newspapers in the driveway. You can suspend mail delivery online and newspaper with a quick phone call.

Taking care of plants and pets

Because summer is the time when most people take vacation, kennels fill up quickly. Make sure to make your reservations as soon as your vacation plans are locked in. If you’re just going to be gone for a long weekend, plants are not that big of a deal. However, consider using a plant feeder if you’ll be away for an extended period of time.

Turn the air conditioner up, not off

Turning the A/C off is a welcome opportunity for your home to become humid. Removing the humidity from the house when you return means your unit will be working extra hard and a day or two that you’re not very comfortable in the house. Turn the thermostat up to 85 degrees. This is high enough that it will be easy to get your home back down to a comfortable temperature and keep the humidity out. When you return home, don’t turn the thermostat down to 65 to get it comfortable more quickly. Doing so could freeze the unit.

Put lights on a timer

There’s no need to advertise that you’re away and a dark home for consecutive days is like a full page ad in the newspaper. You can pick up a timer at most hardware and home improvement stores. Connect a timer to a few lights around the home and your television.

Turn off the water

Rather than turning off the supply to each individual sink and toilet, you can turn off the main supply to the house at one valve. This will ensure that you will not receive the unwelcome surprise of a burst pipe or leaking toilet when you get home.

Unplug electronics

On the final walk through, unplug the computers, televisions and any other accessories so they won’t be damaged in case of a surge caused by an electrical storm. If you have an automatic coffee maker, make sure it’s unplugged, too. Not only will this protect everything, it also helps save on energy consumption because many electronics and appliances use electricity simply by being plugged in.

Turn down your water heater

Check to see if your water heater has an idle or vacation setting. Turning a water heater back on after being shut off can cause some serious complications. Simply lower the temperature to save on energy.

Telephone etiquette

A constantly ringing phone is another indication that you’re away. Make sure that your phone will pick up on the first ring. You might also consider turning the ringer down.

Clear out the refrigerator

Vacation time is a good opportunity to take a hard look at the expiration dates on containers in your refrigerator. Discard anything that’s even close and make sure it goes out with the trash.

Speaking of trash

No one likes to walk into their home after vacation to an unpleasant odor. Collect trash from each room in the house and make sure it goes out. You’ll avoid a smelly welcome and keep your home free of bugs.

Give your house a quick cleaning

Yes, you’ve got a lot on your plate getting ready to go on vacation, but returning to a home free of clutter is a great welcome.

Close all blinds

This not only helps control the temperature and sunlight, it is also a deterrent to unwelcome eyes taking a look to see if you’re away.

Make sure to lock up everything

On your final walk-through, make sure all of the windows are locked. Check every entrance, including the garage door and basement. If you have a privacy fence, make sure to lock the gate.

Keeping your home safe gives you peace of mind while you’re on vacation. Once you have made it through the checklist, enjoy your vacation knowing your home will be ready and waiting upon return.

Eat Healthy, Save Money and Help the Environment with an Herb Garden

People across the country are beginning to put more emphasis on eating sustainable, local foods. Not only is it fresher, it’s better on the environment.

One of the easiest ways to get started doing this yourself is to grow your own fresh herbs. The great thing about an herb garden is… practically everything!

You don’t have to have a green thumb

Herbs are hardy and easy to grow. You can buy small plants or start them from scratch. Elementary school children learn about plants on a small scale and so can you.

Buy a couple of different kinds of seeds and a small bag of potting soil. Save an egg carton to start your garden. Then all you need to do is make sure it gets some sunlight and water.

Indoor or outdoor, small or large

Herb gardens can range from small to quite expansive. After your plants are established in your egg carton planter, you can transplant them to pots (if your herb garden will remain inside) or move them outside if you choose.

Spend a little, save a lot

If you prefer to cook with fresh herbs, you know how pricey they can be at a grocery store. Usually for about $3, you can buy a blister pack of whole herbs and you can’t usually use all of them in one meal, so you end up throwing some away. Imagine being able to snip fresh herbs from your windowsill, planter box or garden.

Seeds aren’t that expensive. Terracotta pots for herbs can be found anywhere for a couple of dollars each. One bag of potting soil is about $5. For a couple of hours work and less than $30, you’ll have fresh herbs all year long. Most herbs can be saved by freezing them in ice cubes to use in cooking through the winter months.

Most popular herbs

What you prefer to cook determines what herbs you will want to plant. Home chefs aren’t the only ones who plant herb gardens. Herbal tea drinkers can grow fresh herbs as well. Here are some must haves for you herbal garden:

  • Basil
  • Chives
  • Cilantro
  • Lemon Balm
  • Lemon Grass
  • Mint
  • Oregano
  • Parsley
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Tarragon
  • Thyme

For a little work and not a lot of money, you can grow your own herbs. Start small and you may find that it is a stepping stone to becoming a full-fledged home gardener.

Homemade pesticides: Inexpensive, effective and environmentally friendly

For many homeowners, keeping their yards healthy, beautiful and free of pests and weeds is expensive and involves the use of chemicals. But it doesn’t have to be.

You can make safe and effective sprays to rid your lawn of pests that are more environmentally friendly without hurting your household budget. Best of all, they’re easy to make and use common products.

Pepper spray for insects

A variety of insects can be deterred and even killed with this pepper insecticide. In a food processor or blender, combine two hot peppers (or three teaspoons of ground cayenne), one large onion, a bulb of garlic and 1/4 cup of water. It will make a rough mash.

Put the mash in a bucket and cover with one gallon of hot, but not boiling, water. Allow to sit for 24 hours. Strain through a cheesecloth and add a few drops of liquid dish soap. This will help it to stick to the plants. However, too much soap can damage the leaves.

Use rubber gloves and goggles when applying this to your plants. As irritating as it is to bugs, it is pretty similar to pepper spray. You can use this on flowers, including roses, and in your garden, to turn away bug infestations.

Kill lawn weeds with vinegar

Lawn weeds, including dandelions, can be killed with vinegar. Make a mixture of equal parts vinegar and water and spray those weeds with the mixture. They will be dead within a couple of days. This works well on any weeds with long roots.

Killing caterpillars two ways

Caterpillars can cause damage to all kinds of plants. You can save your plants from them and other soft-bodied pests like aphids and spider mites with one of two easy-to-make mixtures.

The first is saltwater. Dissolve 2 tablespoons of salt in 1.5 gallons of hot water. Allow to cool to room temperature before putting in your sprayer.

The second is vegetable oil, which seems to smother soft-bodied pests. Mix 1 tablespoon of dishwashing liquid with 1 cup of vegetable oil. For small jobs, add 2.5 teaspoons of the mixture to a cup of water in your spray bottle. For big jobs, add 3/4 cup to a gallon of water.

Either of these mixtures can damage plants. It’s best to test them on the plants to gauge their sensitivity. Apply a little of the mixture to the leaves and observe over a couple of days. If they wilt or look burned, they’re too sensitive.

Use salt on walkways, driveways and patios

At the end of winter, you can buy rock salt at discounted prices. It will kill the weeds that poke up through concrete, asphalt, brick and paver stone. Be aware that it can erode concrete and any ground where salt is applied will remain barren.

Killing ants with cornmeal

Make sure there’s no threat of rain. Sprinkle cornmeal around the outside of the house and around ant hills. The ants will eat the cornmeal and get thirsty. When they drink water, it causes the cornmeal they’ve eaten to swell and they die.

As with anything, use caution. While you don’t want the pests, you don’t want to harm your plants. Consult your lawn and garden specialist; they may have more tips and tricks for controlling pests with do-it-yourself pesticides.