Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Air Conditioning Maintenance and Repair

  • To ensure efficient operation, check filters every month. Clean or replace as needed.
  • Have annual system maintenance service performed one month before the cooling season begins.
  • Keep the condensing unit free of debris.
  • Trim shrubs and plants near condensing unit to ensure proper air flow/circulation.
  • Bent condensing unit fins can be straightened with a fine comb.

Air Conditioning Quick Fixes

Problem: Water leaks into the walls or ceiling.
  • Make sure the drain line is not restricted and condensation drains freely.

Problem: Unit constantly cycles on and off.
  • Call a qualified professional to clean the evaporator unit and fan.

Problem: Air conditioner doesn't make air cold enough.
  • Keep area around the exterior condensing unit clear of leaves, bushes and other obstructions to ensure adequate airflow.
  • Clean or replace air filter.
  • Create shade for the unit.
  • Secure the insulation firmly to the suction line (large line) and replace any worn-out insulation.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Housing industry boosts employment

Ilyce Glink /
(MoneyWatch) Despite an economic picture that looks considerably rosier than it has in the past few years, one nagging problem continues to hinder economic growth: Unemployment.

For the first time in years, the housing industry may be able to help.

While the most recent unemployment surveys for March are weak overall, the housing recovery is responsible for a rare bright spot: Construction job growth, according to Freddie Mac's U.S. Economic and Housing Market Outlook report.

Non-farm jobs grew by only 88,000 in March, well below market predictions. Unemployment ticked down this month, but not by much. March's unemployment rate dropped barely .1 percent to 7.6 percent from 7.7 percent in February, and only .6 percent from March a year ago.

While that's progress, it's very slow progress.

Unemployment numbers are still high compared with pre-recession rates that hovered around 4 percent. And while they are below the more than 10 percent unemployment rate at the height of the recession, a deep dive into the numbers shows that this particular dip in unemployment is not attributable to job growth but to labor force participation dwindling, according to Freddie Mac chief economist Frank Northaft.

The good news is that construction, one of the of the hardest-hit industries during the recession, amounts to 15 percent of overall job growth in the past six months. The housing recovery means more builders are starting construction on new housing units. In fact, housing starts were up 47 percent from March 2012, exceeding one million starts at an annualized rate for the first time in five years.

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) also announced increased builder confidence in the housing and construction market, which almost doubled over the year. However, even with these big gains the index indicates that on average builders are not necessarily optimistic about housing markets -- they are just much less pessimistic.

"Housing construction is starting to pick up, but is well below historical averages," Nothaft said. "Supported by low mortgage rates, we expect more homes to be built in 2013 than in any year since 2007. This increased construction employment should continue to help bring down the overall unemployment rate."

It's a careful balance for now, but as long as interest rates remain low enough to attract buyers, and housing prices grow enough to attract builders, the construction recovery will continue to grow and help spur overall growth in employment.

If the trends continue, this could be the first year in a long time that the housing sector actually helps the economic recovery, rather than hinder it. The housing sector is expected to add a half a percentage point to GDP growth this year, according to the report.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Get the most from your home repair dollars

By Marcie Geffner • Bankrate.com
Plumber working on sink
For newer homeowners who aren't familiar with their home's maintenance needs, home maintenance chores can be daunting. When the list of home repair chores, from inspecting the roof to regrouting the bathtub, grows overwhelming the question naturally arises: What's most important?
The answer: Maintenance chores that involve safety or water intrusion should be top priority, according to David Tamny, American Society of Home Inspectors inspector and owner of Professional Property Inspection in Columbus, Ohio.
"One of the most important elements of homeowner maintenance is anything that has to do with drainage or water flow. Gutters or problems with grading and drainage around the structure that can contribute to foundation problems are probably things you don't want to defer," he says.

Stop water intrusion, fix safety hazards

In the safety category, homeowners should prioritize:
  • Inspecting and repairing broken hand railings or walkway cracks that could lead to a slip-and-fall injury.
  • Pushing the "test" buttons on electrical outlets to make sure the ground-fault circuits are working.
  • Installing and testing smoke detectors in sleeping areas and hallways that lead into bedrooms.
Water is so insidious that it's the No. 1 concern of home inspectors at Amerispec of Northeast Florida, according to Charles Gifford, owner of the home inspection company in Jacksonville.
In the water category, homeowners should prioritize:
  • Cleaning out rain gutters and downspouts.
  • Repairing stucco cracks.
  • Using good-quality exterior paints.
  • Re-caulking showers, bathtubs, sinks and toilets to keep water out of the walls and floors.
  • Repairing and sealing window leaks, which can cause mold and damage the structure of the home.
  • Cutting back plants that have grown too close to the foundation.
"Vegetation should be trimmed back so rain is running away from the house," Gifford says.

Head's up for a roof inspection

A periodic roof inspection is also a must because undetected leaks can cause myriad costly home repairs. How often a roof should be professionally inspected depends on the age and type of roof and local weather conditions. An older roof exposed to severe weather should be inspected more often than a newer roof in a mild climate.
In any case, homeowners shouldn't wait until they see telltale stains on the ceilings to get the roof checked out. Instead, a roof inspection should be part of the regular home repair routine.
"When you start having damage due to water in the interior (of the home), that's going to devalue the property, and the worse that it gets, the more expensive and tough it will be to fix," Tamny says.

Cool it now: your HVAC system

Next on the to-do list should be the home's heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system, known in the trade by the abbreviation "HVAC," whether that means a furnace, air-conditioning unit, heat pump or other components. These systems should be serviced at least once or twice a year because, again, poor maintenance practices can lead to much more costly repairs.
"A dirty filter can lead to all kinds of problems," Gifford says.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Get Your Cabinets Organized

Make the most of your kitchen storage space

Most people use their kitchens multiple times each day. Your kitchen cabinets are opened and closed more times than you can count. Having your kitchen cabinets organized makes it easier for everyone to find what they need in a timely manner.
Get rid of it
The very first thing to do is to take absolutely everything out of every kitchen cupboard and put it either on a table or on another surface where you can go through it all.
Why? Because chances are you are storing a number of things in your kitchen cupboards that you don’t need or that should be stored elsewhere. Weed out those items and either store them where they should be stored, throw them out or give them away.
While it may not help organization, it will make your cupboards more inviting if they are clean. Get a bucket of soapy water and a rag and wipe down the cupboards.
Like items
For those using the cupboards, whether frequently or infrequently, it helps to keep like items together. That easy enough for glassware, plates, serving pieces and other utensils, but what about food and ingredients?
What can help in that situation is to take like food items and put them in separate small bins. For example, put all baking items such as flour, baking soda, baking powder and the like in a covered container — like a small tub — and label it “baking supplies.”
Depending on the size of the bins, you can stack them on a shelf, giving you more storage room in your cupboards.
Canned goods shelf
It’s natural to want to stack canned goods on top of each other on a cupboard shelf. While that may initially seem like a good idea, what you end up with are rows of stacked cans where you can see what you have in the front row, but not in the back.
The solution to this challenge is to use a tiered shelf organizer to store canned goods. That way you can see everything without having to empty the shelf.
Deep cabinets
While they can store a lot, deep kitchen cabinets don’t help if you can’t see what is in the back. Installing sliding drawers in these cabinets can help you see everything at a glance.
The door and wall
Don’t overlook a cabinet or pantry door or wall for storage. A door rack on a pantry door can hold frequently used items. A wall rack can make use of what could be wasted space in a cupboard.
Take a good look at your cupboards, and with a little thought and elbow grease, you can make optimal use of your cupboards and nothing gets lost.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Electronic /Appliance Recycle Fundraiser

•Date: 04/20/2013
•Time: 1:00pm to 5:00pm
Venue: First Congregational Church of Natick
2 East Central Street
Natick, MA 01760

All Towns Welcome

Electronics and Appliance Recycle Day
First Congregational Church
Saturday April 20, 1:00 PM- 5:00 PM

Bring these items to the parking lot at 2 East Central Street, Natick MA
Electronics such as:

Computers, Scanners, Copiers, etc...$5 ea.

Appliances such as: Dishwashers, Dryers, Stoves, Micowaves, Dehumidifiers,
Refrig.,AC, Exercise Equipments, Lawn Mowers, Small Engine Items, Snow Blowers, Lawn Mowers, etc...$10 ea.Tv's 10-25, monitors $10.

Also included: Bicycle Recycle Day, no fee.

Bring your unwanted old or new bicycle and drop it off, it will be reused again.
Many bicycle will go to Ghana, some will go to the Batist Church in Worcester.
No Fee: All household batteries, car batteries and cell phones.

Any Questions: Please contact Dennis Wood 508-277-7513

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Installation tips for 3 unique shelving options

By Paul Bianchina
Inman News®
Whether it's a single decorative shelf in the living room or a set of rough shelving in the garage, we all love shelves. We display our prized collections and toss our messy paint cans on them. We'll put them high and low, and just about anywhere space allows.
Shelves offer you a chance to do some practical organizing while at the same time offering opportunities for some fun, elegant, whimsical or eclectic decorating. But above all, the shelves need to stay on the wall and support their intended loads, so today let's take a look at some different types of shelving and shelving supports, and how they're installed.

Tools needed
The tools you'll need for installing shelves are pretty basic -- usually just a cordless screwdriver, a tape measure, a level, and possibly a stud finder. To ensure that the shelf is level, you'll want to use as long a level as possible for the length of the shelf being installed. In other words, don't use a 7-inch torpedo level on a 5-foot shelf.

"Floating" shelves
As their name implies, floating shelves appear to be self-supporting, with no brackets or other supports underneath them. Floating shelves are typically relatively short and decorative, and are ideal for the living room, den, entry or other areas where you want to create a display area, or perhaps install some stereo speakers or other electronics.
Floating shelves are usually solid wood or medium-density fiberboard (MDF), come in different lengths, are painted or stained, and may have a square or routed edge, sometimes with an additional decorative molding underneath. There are both straight and pie-shaped versions for corners. They're installed with the included hardware, which typically fits into a groove in the back of the shelf. A variation of the wooden floating shelf is one made of tempered glass, which fits into a slotted bracket that's attached to the wall.
With any floating shelf, pay careful attention to the load rating, which is the amount of weight that the shelf and the included attachment hardware is rated to hold. Also, be sure that you carefully follow the manufacturer's installation instructions.

Individual shelves on brackets
For a larger or longer shelf installation, use an individual board on brackets. These are ideal for a kid's room, where you want to display trophies and store toys and books, or perhaps in a den, home office or just about any other room. They're also fine in a garage or shop for utility shelving.
For this type of shelf, you need to start with a design concept. Will this be decorative or utilitarian? How long and how deep does the shelf need to be?
From there, a visit to your local home center or hardware store will offer you a number of options for both the shelving board and the brackets. You can opt for a prefinished board in solid lumber, veneered plywood or other materials, melamine or MDF. Or you can buy a piece of raw lumber or sheet goods, and cut your own to whatever length and width you need, then stain or paint it as desired.
The brackets also range from decorative to utilitarian. At the decorative end, you can find beautiful carved and routed brackets, also called corbels, in a variety of sizes and materials. At the utilitarian end are painted and raw metal brackets that offer plenty of strength at a low cost, and are great for shops, garages, and some interior applications where you might be opting for a more commercial or industrial look.
For the greatest strength and load-bearing capacity, the brackets need to be anchored into the wall studs. Some decorative brackets have hidden fastening systems that allow the fasteners to be completely concealed behind the bracket, while others use exposed screws.

Multiple shelves
For closets, garages, home offices or other areas where you need lots of storage, you might be more in the market for a multiple shelf arrangement. There are two basic options for how you can set this up: supported from the back or supported from the sides.
With a set of shelves supported from the back, you're basically doing the same thing as what you do with individual shelves. If you want all the shelves to be in fixed positions, you can simply mount several shelves at different heights on brackets. Some people will make this into a more decorative focal point on a wall by altering the spacing between the shelves, the length of the shelves, or both.
If you want the shelves to be adjustable so that you periodically alter the height between them, then the easiest solution is to install adjustable shelf standards, also called shelf hanging tracks, directly on the wall; again, be sure they're anchored to the studs. Shelf support arms then clip into the tracks, and the shelves rest on the arms.
The other option is to support the shelves from the sides. This involves adding supports on each side, and is most commonly seen in a closet situation.
One of the easiest ways to do this is to use predrilled melamine boards, which are typically available in 8-foot lengths and widths of 12, 16 and 24 inches. The boards are white with one banded edge. Simply install the boards vertically in the closet, then install shelving horizontally between them. Shelf pins fit into the predrilled holes to make installation and adjustment of the shelves a breeze. If you don't like the predrilled option, you can use solid boards and attach shelf standards to them instead.
Melamine and other types of shelving and all of the installation brackets are available at home centers and most hardware stores and lumberyards.

Remodeling and repair questions? Email Paul at paulbianchina@inman.com. All product reviews are based on the author's actual testing of free review samples provided by the manufacturers.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

5 Common Mistakes When Remodeling Your Bathroom

by Michael Franco, Angie's List Contributor

When it comes to home improvement projects, taking an old bathroom from dingy to dazzling can add significant value to your home — especially if you do it correctly.
It's all too easy however, to get sidetracked during a bathroom revamp and find yourself drowning in unexpected costs and unanticipated problems. That's why it's critical to avoid these common bathroom remodeling mistakes.

Budgeting too little

According to Remodeling Magazine, the average cost of remodeling a bathroom is $16,634. You'd be wise to budget more than this though, especially if you're doing your remodel in an older home. In fact, if your home is more than 50 years old, you're likely to find galvanized steel pipes in the walls. You're probably going to want to replace them with more durable PVC or copper plumbing, which will reduce problems that can come when the steel pipe corrodes. Also, because bathrooms are wet areas of the home, be prepared to encounter water damage and possibly even mold, which can increase the price of the project exponentially.

Being trendy

If you've ever shopped for a new home, you've come across once-trendy bathroom nightmares everywhere: pink tile that was in vogue in the '50s, avocado green sinks and toilets that were popular in the '70s and Jacuzzi tubs that were all the rage in the '80s. Instead of going with the latest design fad in your bathroom, consider designing in a more classic, timeless way. You can never go wrong with neutral colors, simple tiles and a fresh, clean look. You might not get a shocking contemporary design now, but you also won't shock future buyers with a style that's gone the way of the shag carpet.

Cheaping out

While it's important not to overspend on your bathroom remodel and to shop for the best deal on fixtures and materials, it's equally critical not to try to save money in areas of the project that will only cause you more trouble later. Shoddy sink and shower fixtures will only need to be replaced in a few years. Cheap cabinets will have doors that don't fit properly and will always be a source of frustration. Using substandard underlayment on your subfloor can lead to water damage. And installing an inexpensive diverter valve in the shower means that you might never stop fighting a hot-and-cold water war with the other people in your home.

It's equally important not to skimp on paying for a quality contractor and to remember that the person who gives you the cheapest quote might not be the best person for the job. You'll want to hire someone who actually specializes in bathroom remodels because particular challenges exist with this kind of work that you don't find in general carpentry projects. You'll also want to make sure your remodeler works with a licensed and insured plumber.

Ignoring clearance distances

When remodeling a bathroom, it's so easy to get swept up in the fun stuff — colors, tiles, fixtures — that you actually forget that the space is about function first, then form. So before you begin breaking down walls and moving plumbing around, be sure that the bathroom will work in a logical manner. You don't want your knees pressed up against the side of the shower when you're using the toilet or to have shower or cabinet doors that bang against other surfaces or a bathroom door that can't open all the way because it's blocked by something else. Lay everything out on paper before beginning, making sure to accurately measure distances and clearances.

Doing it yourself

Unless you're a contractor yourself, chances are good that you'll want to hire a professional to oversee your bathroom remodel. While you might be able to work with him or her to save some money by doing small parts of the project yourself (like removal of old tile or painting), you could create huge expense either now or in the future if you botch the plumbing or rewire the room incorrectly.

..Wait! You’re not going to hire a service provider without checking Angie’s List first are you? Join Now!

Monday, April 1, 2013

10 Home-Maintenance Tips for Spring


main yard 3 house exterior after

After a long, dark winter, spring's bright sun and warm winds are, well, a breath of fresh air. The only downside? All that sunshine spotlights your leaf-filled gutters, cracked sidewalks and the dead plants in last year's flower beds. Dwight Barnett, a certified master inspector with the American Society of Home Inspectors, shared this checklist to help you target the areas that need maintenance so you can get your chores done quickly, leaving you time to go outside and play in the sunshine.

  • Check for loose or leaky gutters. Improper drainage can lead to water in the basement or crawl space. Make sure downspouts drain away from the foundation and are clear and free of debris.
  • Low areas in the yard or next to the foundation should be filled with compacted soil. Spring rains can cause yard flooding, which can lead to foundation flooding and damage. Also, when water pools in these low areas in summer, it creates a breeding ground for insects.
  • Use a screwdriver to probe the wood trim around windows, doors, railings and decks. Make repairs now before the spring rains do more damage to the exposed wood.
  • From the ground, examine roof shingles to see if any were lost or damaged during winter. If your home has an older roof covering, you may want to start a budget for replacement. The summer sun can really damage roof shingles. Shingles that are cracked, buckled or loose or are missing granules need to be replaced. Flashing around plumbing vents, skylights and chimneys need to be checked and repaired by a qualified roofer.
  • Examine the exterior of the chimney for signs of damage. Have the flue cleaned and inspected by a certified chimney sweep.
  • Inspect concrete slabs for signs of cracks or movement. All exterior slabs except pool decks should drain away from the home's foundation. Fill cracks with a concrete crack filler or silicone caulk. When weather permits, power-wash and then seal the concrete.
  • Remove firewood stored near the home. Firewood should be stored at least 18 inches off the ground at least 2 feet from the structure.
  • Check outside hose faucets for freeze damage. Turn the water on and place your thumb or finger over the opening. If you can stop the flow of water, it is likely the pipe inside the home is damaged and will need to be replaced. While you're at it, check the garden hose for dry rot.
  • Have a qualified heating and cooling contractor clean and service the outside unit of the air conditioning system. Clean coils operate more efficiently, and an annual service call will keep the system working at peak performance levels. Change interior filters on a regular basis.
  • Check your gas- and battery-powered lawn equipment to make sure it is ready for summer use. Clean equipment and sharp cutting blades will make yardwork easier.