Monday, 26 June 2017

Remodeling: Never Overpay Again - InfoBarrel

When it comes to remodeling or even fixing something around the house, most people seem to be afraid to try to do it themselves. They fear that once they open a wall, they will never make it look right again or the house will crumble around them! This might seem a little extreme but I say this to bring to light that basic carpentry is not brain surgery and can be learned by anyone who can swing a hammer. You might think of yourself as a "bad carpenter" because you hit your thumb when you try to use a hammer, and then consider letting someone "more qualified" to do the job. Hitting your thumb with the hammer is part of the learning process. Every carpenter has done it when first starting out. After a few times of doing this, they slow down and learn how to hit the nail correctly until they gain confidence and then speed comes along. Hitting the nail correctly is one of the more difficult tasks in basic carpentry so if you can Best Home Improvement College Station manage to learn this, then you can do a lot around the house instead of paying someone else to do it for you.

Hitting the Nail on the Head

I am sure that you have heard the saying, "Hit the nail on the head." There are several ways to hit a nail. If a nail is hit incorrectly, the head can be bent or the nail its self can bend but this usually happens when something is hit inside the piece being nailed, such as a knot. To avoid bending the head, grab the hammer firmly where you feel comfortable. Swing the hammer at a speed where you remain accurate and strike the surface of the hammer squarely (flat) on the head of the nail. If the head of the hammer hits the nail at an angle, the head of the nail can bend which will render the nail unable to be sunk any further. This can also happen if the surface of t he hammer is smooth (finishing hammer). For general purposes, buy a hammer that has a Home Improvement in College Station rough surface that looks somewhat like a waffle iron. If you're doing finishing work, it is advisable to also buy a smooth headed hammer so a waffle pattern is not left on any surfaces. A smooth dent is easier to sand or paint over. Hit the nail just hard enough to sink it in so it will stay without you having to hold it with your fingers. At first, this will take you two to three hits but will eventually take you only one hit as you gain in skill. Remove your hand from the area and continue to strike the nail evenly with more force until it is flush (even) with the surface you are nailing into. I know it's somewhat of a long explanation just for hammering a nail but it is the foundation of the rest of your carpentry skills. Bad things can happen if a hammer is in the wrong hands.

Removing Fixtures

The first thing to do for a remodel ing job is to remove fixtures and to clear the work area. If your taking the face of the wall off for example, remove any electrical covers with a screw driver and place them somewhere you will remember. If there is a wooden board on the wall along the ground (baseboard), get a flat bar and place it between the board and the wall and hammer gently between them, slowly prying it off. If a new board is going to be purchased, you don't need to be so gentle. If a toilet needs to be removed, turn the water off via a knob near the base of the toilet on the wall, flush the water out, and take a bucket and large sponge to get the excess water out. Remove the caps on the side of the toilet that are hiding the bolts and loosen the bolts with the appropriate size wrench. BE CAREFUL! If you turn them the wrong way, you will be tightening the bolts and can crack the toilet so proceed slowly. Disconnect the hoses from the back and remove the nuts from the bolts that hold the toilet down. Slowly r ock the toilet back and forth to break the wax seal and lift straight up and place the toilet somewhere safe with something underneath to keep the floor clean and dry. A new wax seal most likely will need to be bought but they are only around $10. Place a rag in the pipe where the toilet was to stop any sewer gases from coming into the house. That's basically it for fixtures. If you can remove a toilet, you will not have any problems with a sink.

The Point of No Return

Now, for the part that you have been dreading. You must punch a hole in the wall. Once you do this, there is no turning back. Do not do this with your fist since you never know where a stud (wall support lumber) is since building codes change over the years. Today, studs are 16 inch center so that means that there should be a stud (the center of one) every 16 inches. Measure about 8 inches from a corn er and punch a hole with your hammer just hard enough to go through. You never know what is behind that wall so never use a power tool to cut through since you might hit electrical wire. Once you have made a hole big enough to see through, stick your hand through and start pulling the sheet rock off of the studs. Once you have cleared off all of the sheet rock, check the surface of the studs and pull out any remaining nails or screws. Depending on what you're trying to accomplish your next actions will be different but thus far, you have saved a 2 person crew 3 hours of labor and shaved off that expense from your final bill. The majority of carpentry work is taken up by prep and finish work. If you can eliminate that, you will save big on home repairs and remodeling.

Closing it All

After you have made the desired repairs yourself or called in a professional to do the "hard" part, you can close the wall yourself. Drywall or sheet rock is very inexpensive at about $5.00 per 4' by 8' sheet. You don't need power tools to cut it either. All you need is a "box cutter", measuring tape, and pencil. Simply measure the wall that you want a piece of drywall to go on and mark that measurement on the drywall. Score along one side of the sheet and then the other. You don't have to get it perfect, just close and if you mess up, drywall is cheap and it is not a big loss. You can also measure any electrical outlets and light switches and mark that measurement on the drywall so you can cut an appropriately sized rectangle. Put the drywall in place and secure using drywall screws. Never use nails since these will eventually push back out and mess up your paint job. The job is mostly done! Now, unless you feel comfortable covering the seams of the drywall with plaster (and tape), I would call in someone for that. If you do it yourself, you will have left over tools and plaster that you most likely will not use again. This part will only take about 2 hours. Once the plaster has had time to cure (dry) it is safe to paint and replace the fixtures. If a baseboard was removed, replace with one of the same size and use finishing nails to secure it. Don't forget to "sink" the finishing nails by taking another nail and placing it on top of a nail in the baseboard and tapping lightly until the head sinks in about inch.

Well, now that you have seen how the sausage is made, you can save a lot of money by taking the most time consuming (and easy) work out of a remodeling/repair job so the construction companies can't charge you for the labor. With this mindset, you could do something as drastic as removing all of the shingles from your roof and let a company come in and put new ones down. That would cut the time involved by almost half. Before you let a construction company take that trash off your hands, call your garbage collection company and see what it will cost to have a dumpster delivered to your location. If it is cheaper to order it you rself, do that and have the construction team fill it up for you since they are there anyway. You will be saving yourself a lot of work and should only take a team of 4 people 1 hour or less to clean it up. If you decide to go about your remodeling jobs this way, make sure that you agree upon a set amount of money for the completion of the job, do not pay by the hour. This will provide them incentive to finish the job in a timely manner and not take their time so they get paid more. Find a company who is going to also provide a warranty on their work to ensure that quality work is provided.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

This $250 wifi sprinkler can cut lawn water use 30%

Rachio, a Denver-based start-up, has been selling a "smart sprinkler" for the last year. The device takes the place of a traditional control box on an automated home sprinkler system. It hooks the system up to the Internet -- meaning that you can control it from a smartphone.

It also means the sprinkler system can now check the weather. If it's going to rain or has rained recently, the system holds off on watering. It also automatically adjusts the watering times for each season. And it waters intermittently to allow for maximum absorption -- which also encourages the grass to grow deeper roots and become more drought-resistant. These things alone can cut lawn water use by 30%, according to the company -- no small amount when at least eight Western states are in Sprinkler System Rockwall extreme drought, or worse.

Related: Can these gates protect NYC from the next flood?

The company was formed after Chris Klein and Franz Garsombke -- two software engineers working for a real estate intelligence firm -- went through the last drought in Colorado in 2012. When fall came and the dryness subsided, the two noticed that sprinklers in the area Sprinkler System were still running, even though it was raining.

"We figured there had to be a better way," said Klein.

So the pair started writing code and entered a contest run by the Colorado Innovation Network -- a consortium of businesses, governments and universities that promotes economic development in the state. They won $50,000, quit their jobs, and began building the company. Now they have 18 employees, and sales are on track to quadruple from last year, although Klein would not disclose revenue numbers or units sold.

RachioThe hardware mounts in your home, the software is accessible online.

The device itself looks like a router, and Klein said most people can install it in 20 minutes. (If you still can't, most likely a gardener or electrician can.)

The entire thing -- plastic, electronics, packaging -- is made in Colorado. Klein said it would probably be cheaper to make it abroad, but the company is convinced that U.S. manufacturing costs will fall as more companies decide to build stuff here -- and they want to be part of the force driving that change.

It's compatible with Nest and other smart home systems, and many areas experiencing drought -- including Los Angeles, Fresno and the Santa Clara Valley -- subsidize the $250 retail price, said Klein.

Of course California is the most populous state s eeing a historic drought, and Klein said roughly a third of his sales are in that state, up from about a quarter last year.

Rachio isn't the only company to make these devices -- competitors include Blossom and Skydrop.

CNNMoney (New York) First published May 13, 2015: 6:38 AM ET

Famed sports painter LeRoy Neiman dead at 91| Reuters

By Daniel Trotta


NEW YORK LeRoy Neiman, whose distinctive, vibrantly colored paintings of sports figures and athletic events made him as famous as many of the athletes he drew, died on Wednesday at age 91.

Neiman, a showman known for his handlebar mustache, sometimes painted live on television during major events such as the Olympics and the Super Bowl, helping make him one of the world's most commercially successful contemporary artists.

Among his subjects were boxing's Muhammad Ali, former New York Jets football star Joe Namath and baseball greats Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio.

Neiman had just published his memoirs, "All Told," which came out days before his 91st birthday on June 8.

"He had a happy birthday. He was so happy to see his memoir published," said Gail Parenteau, his publicist.

She said he died at Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan of natural causes. He had been hospitalized there in 2010 with vascular problems that required life-saving surgery to remove his right leg above the knee, she said.

By coincidence, his latest work - a multicolored golf ball 4 feet in diameter and completed in April - went on display in Chicago on Wednesday, said his archivist, Tara Zabor.

Neiman was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, on June 8, 1921, and was of Turkish and Swedish descent "as near as I can figure out," according to his official website.

A child of the Great Depression whose father abandoned his family at a young age, Neiman enlisted in the U.S. military in 1942, later taking part in the invasion of Normandy and fighting in the Battle of the Bulge, according to a biography provided by Parenteau.

On returning home, he attended Chicago's School of the Art Institute on the G.I. Bill.

He became a cont ributing artist for Playboy magazine in the 1950s and established a friendship with its founder, Hugh Hefner, one of many famous friends including Frank Sinatra and Ali.

He painted about a dozen portraits of Ali, Zabor said, befriending the boxer when he was still known as Cassius Clay.


Neiman said he ignored advice that working with Playboy would ruin his career as a legitimate artist.

"But Playboy was liberating," he wrote in his memoir. "I was drawn to it and went for it full throttle. ... I lived my life as I wanted to live it and screw what happens. I always stayed in tune with my own ambitions and attitudes and I'm still my intractable old self, for better or worse."

Patty Otis Abel, a contributor and editor on his memoir, said Hefner appreciated that Neiman came from a fine arts background.

"Hugh wanted to be able to combine a fine art and more of a commercial sensibility, and he felt that's what LeRoy brought," Abel said.

Neiman was named official artist of the Olympic Winter Games in Lake Placid and Sarajevo in 1980 and 1984 and the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles, cementing his image as a painter of athletic themes. He also painted U.S. presidents, jazz musicians, Las Vegas gamblers and the animals of Africa in addition to authoring 15 books.

Abel agreed he was a showman.

"There was always a genuine aspect to it," she said. "It was never phony. This was a genuine guy and a true original."

(Reporting By Daniel Trotta; editing by Christopher Wilson)

Friday, 16 June 2017

California water: End of the LA lawn (Opinion)

"We're so used to Southern California having these beautiful, lush lawns and palm trees and seasonal flowers," she told me by phone from Culver City, a suburb of Los Angeles, where she is general manager at a landscaping business called A Greener Tomorrow. But now, because of the drought and new water regulations, "I'm telling you, all I see is Arizona and Las Vegas."

"Who's going to be willing to pay?" she said. "You can't maintain a lawn!"

The idea of Sprinkler System Installation Los Sprinkler System Installation Arlington Angeles -- much less Bel Air and Beverly Hills -- ripping out its water-sucking lawns and oh-so-thirsty flowers is indeed a shock, especially if installing and maintaining those lawns is your livelihood. But consider the context: California is in an extreme drought. Snowpack in the state, one measure of how much water will be availab le this summer, is at an all-time low, at just 5% of normal. Rivers are running dry, as I found last summer on a three-week trip down the San Joaquin. With no water at the surface, farmers are turning below the ground, pumping out groundwater at such an alarming rate that the land actually is sinking. In some places, that's happening at the truly astounding rate of almost 1 foot per year.

I see where Uribe's coming from. The 35-year-old loves the colorful, landscaped version of Los Angeles. And she fears a drab, monochromatic future -- a blah city, all dirt and rocks.

But this is a crisis. And the California lawn is a reasonable casualty.

I applaud Gov. Jerry Brown's recent push to require all cities and towns to cut their water use by 25%. To help local entities with the new mandate, the state plans to support the replacement of 50 million square feet of lawns with drought-tolerant plants (otherwise known as "cash for grass"), create a rebate system so residen ts will get help replacing water-hogging appliances with more efficient models, require golf courses to cut water use, and ban watering the grass found on public street medians, among other provisions.

The total savings, according to the governor's office, will be 1.5 million acre feet of water over nine months. For context, 1 million acre feet is said by environmental groups to be as much water as 2 million families would need in a year.The state's focus on lawns makes sense given that grass and other landscaping account for up to 50% of all urban water use, said Ellen Hanak, a senior fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California. "It's nice for us to have trees and landscapes, but we could do that with half of the water," she said. "It's not like it's going to mean the end of our economy or the end of our way of life."

If anything, the requirements don't go far enough.

Each year, California uses 6 million more acre feet of water "than our rivers and aqu ifers can sustainably provide," according to a 2014 report from the Pacific Institute and the Natural Resources Defense Council. Those groups found 14 million acre feet of water per year could be saved if a number of changes were made to the way cities and farms operate. Among the recommendations: More-efficient farming techniques, including drip irrigation and "smart irrigation scheduling," which waters crops exactly when and where they need it.

So Brown's plan won't fix California's water woes.

But it's an important start.

Next, the state should direct its focus to farms, which consume 80% of all human-used water in California and generate only 2% of the state's gross domestic product. It's reasonable, if politically tricky, for the state to focus more attention on the industry that consumes more water than any other. California can create a water budget that allows farms, people and fish to thrive.Much water can be saved with newer technologies, without for cing farmers to give up the land they use to grow crops, said Heather Cooley, water program director at the Pacific Institute.

She praised Brown's order as "a very positive step forward."

"California is facing a drought of epic proportions, and we need to work together to reduce the use of water so there's sufficient water for cities, for farms and for ecosystems," she told me. "We need to be preparing not only for this drought but for the next one."

And that's the crux of it.

This California drought has been extreme. But in the future, as the climate continues to warm, Cooley and others say the state likely will see more hot, dry years like this.

They won't seem so abnormal, sadly.

All the more reason it's good for California to deal with its grass problem pront o.

If it's smart, it can do so without looking like the Arizona desert.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

How To Hack Your Electric Bill

You turn off the lights when you leave a room. You unplug small appliances when they aren't in use. You think you're being pretty smart about your energy consumption, yet every month your electric bill keeps creeping up. You shudder to think how high it could go in the summer months -- especially if you're cooling off an apartment or home in Phoenix, AZ, during mid-July. You're not alone. On average, American households spend $110 a month on their electric bill.


Before you start plotting a move to cooler climes, find out how to save electricity with these hacks and then start focusing on more fun tasks -- like what to do with all of the money you're saving!

1. Identify the "energy vampires" in your home

"Appliances that use a remote control, have a continuous display, or have an external power supply all continue to use energy, even when they're turned off," says Gene Wang, CEO and co-founder of People Power, a company that provides apps, cloud, and mobile service.

Translation: Simply remembering to turn off your plasma TV isn't enough. According to Wang, even when it's turned off, a TV still sucks up 1,400 kilowatt-hours annually, which could mean an extra $150 per year added to your bill. Invest in a smart power strip and plug like-used devices such as TVs, game consoles, and cable boxes into the same one, advises Wang. Not only will the device cut off phantom power, but it can also be set to turn on and off automatically.

2. Invest in a power monitor to optimize energy usage times

"You want to use power when the energy rates are lower and there's less demand on the power grid," says Joel Worthington, president of Mr. Electric LLC, an international electrical installation and repair company. A power monitor can help you figure out how much energy you're using throughout the day so that you can make changes accordingly. For example, you may find it's more economical to run the dishwasher just before bedtime.

3. Wash clothes in cold water and line-dry

According to Project Laundry List, if you dry four loads of laundry in an electric dryer per week, it'll cost you an extra $110 per year (that's basically a membership to Hulu). Wash your clothes in cold KA water whenever possible and then hang them to dry on your own DIY version of an indoor clothesline (if DIY isn't your thing, check out for ready-made products for line-drying inside).

4. Use small appliances for small meals

Eating alone? Heat up your food in a toaster oven, which can use up to half as much energy as an electric oven. In the mood for a cup of tea? Heat the water in an electric kettle rather than turning on a stove burner. And when you do use your stove-top, be sure to use the burner closest to the size of your pot. According to, "a 6-inch pan on an 8-inch burner wastes over 40% of the heat produced by the burner."

5. Install motion-activated power outlets

Can't remember whether you unplugged your curling iron before you left the house? Use a motion-activated outlet adapter. It will automatically turn off a gadget or appliance that's plugged into the adapter when it senses no one is in the room using it, says Worthington. If you're a renter, mention this option to your landlord, who will probably be only too happy to reduce wasted energy use (and potentially prevent fires too).

6. Stock your fridge

Not only will your stomach thank you, but also a full refrigerator requires less energy to stay cool than an empty one. And while you're at it, be sure to gently vacuum the coils twice a year. "Dust makes the coils heat up and work harder," says Worthington. The harder your fridge works, the more money you'll ultimately spend on your electric bill.

7. Take advantage of solar gain

Why heat or cool a room if you aren't using it? In the summer months, keep shades drawn during the hours when sun exposure is highest. In cooler months, let the sunlight in, which will give your bulbs -- and wallet -- a break. Keep air vents closed too.

8. Convert to LED bulbs

Yes, they're more expensive upfront -- an LED light bulb costs about $8 per bulb, whereas an incandescent is around a buck -- but an LED bulb will last a whopping 25,000 hours (or almost 23 years, assuming three hours of use per day) compared with 1,000 hours for a regular old bulb. Not to mention that in that same 23-year timespan, an average bulb will cost you $180 in electricity at the current average rate, compared with just $30 with an LED bulb. Renters can take the bulbs to their next place to continue the savings.

9. Adjust the temperature of your water heater

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, heating water accounts for 10% to 15% of energy consumption in your home. Most water heaters are preset to 140 degrees, which is way more heat -- and expense -- than yo u need. Worthington advises turning yours down to 120 degrees, which can save you 6% to 10% each year on your heating costs. Renters: Don't try this alone. This is the kind of task that your landlord should handle; ask your landlord to dial it down for you.

What are your tips when friends ask for advice on how to save electricity? How do you lower your electric bill? Share your hacks in the comments!

Also on HuffPost:

The Best Cleaning & Organizing Tips

The Best Cleaning & Organizing Tips

Sunday, 11 June 2017

The Carbon Footprint in Your Lawn

MEMPHIS, Tenn.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--America's big carbon footprint may not be so

big after all, especially for homeowners with healthy lawns.

A carbon footprint is a measure of the impact of human activities on the

environment. It is measured in terms of the amount of greenhouse gases

produced in units of carbon dioxide. According to various studies, the

typical American homeowner creates about 20-22 tons of CO2

every year. Everyone wants to be m ore eco-friendly, but may not be sure

how to reduce his or her environmental impact. The fact is, your

backyard can be a valuable environmental asset and actually can reduce

the size of your carbon footprint.

There is ample research to support the concept of "carbon

sequestration," the process by which carbon

dioxide from the atmosphere is absorbed by trees, plants and crops

through photosynthesis and stored as carbon in roots, tree trunks,

branches, foliage and soil. Organizations such as NASA and the U.S.

Department of Energy support this claim. The DOE website describes

carbon sequestration as "

of the most promising ways for reducing the buildup of greenhouse gases

in the atmosphere."

"Grass plantings are among the most efficient

ecosystems for tying up atmospheric CO2,"
< br>explained Kirk Hurto, vice president for technical services at TruGreen,

the nation's largest lawn care provider. "This

is because the rich, fibrous root system of grass plants and the

associated soil bacteria help recycle carbon through the environment.

Prudent use of fertilizers helps grow healthy grass and enrich your lawn's

ability to sequester carbon dioxide. The bottom line is, grass is good

for the environment."

Beyond growing grass, homeowners can further reduce their carbon

footprint in other ways. Some suggestions:

Use electric-powered hand tools. Electric leaf blowers, string

trimmers, edgers and mowers are more environmentally friendly than

gas-powered devices. They are, however, less convenient for homeowners

with large lawns, so if you Sprinkler Syst em Installation Greenville must use gasoline-powered equipment, keep

the motors tuned properly and your cutting blades sharp.

Avoid over-watering. Lawns are usually more drought-tolerant

than you may expect. Water as recommended by your lawn care

professional or when grass shows signs of stress -

the color changes to blue-green and when the grass fails to spring

back quickly after you step on it, and water before 10 a.m. to reduce

evaporate. Use soaker hoses to spot water shrubs, flowers and trees.

Apply fertilizers and herbicides properly. If you are unsure

about fertilizer and herbicide applications, consult a lawn care

professional or your local Cooperative Extension Service.

Most homeowners are good stewards of the environment. They enjoy nature

and work hard to create a beautiful natural environment around their

home. The grass, flowers, shrubs and trees they plant create ox ygen,

fight erosion and provide a natural filter for the environment. If you

have a nice, healthy lawn take pride in the contribution you're

making to Mother Earth.

About TruGreen

TruGreen is the world's largest lawn and

landscape company, serving more than 3.4 million residential and

commercial customers across the United States with lawn care, tree and

shrub care, and landscaping services. As the current industry leader,

TruGreen continues to pioneer the development of new technology for lawn

care, and devotes substantial resources to continually evaluate new

products and equipment. TruGreen is a member of the ServiceMaster Family

of Brands, which also includes TruGreen LandCare,

Terminix, American Home Shield,

InStar, ServiceMaster Clean,

Merry Maids, Furniture Medic,

and AmeriSpec. For more information, go to