Posted in how-to's, Uncategorized

DIY Hacks For Reducing Your Winter Heating Bill

The weather outside is frightful, which means there’s a chance your heating bill is as well. With warmer weather still months away,  you’re going to want to keep your heating use in check. Here are some energy-saving strategies to stay toasty without piling on the layers.

Apply Window Film

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Shrink wrap is an inexpensive and effective insulation alternative that blocks drafty windows to reduce heat loss by up to 14%.

And if sealed meticulously, you won’t even notice it’s there.

While installing it yourself can be somewhat time consuming, your efforts will not be in vain!

Plastic wrap also reflects the sun’s heat during summer, keeping the house cooler.

Use Your Ceiling Fan

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There’s a stigma that fans are only meant to cool, but they can also be utilized to circulate heat. By setting your fan at the lowest speed, the warm air trapped at the ceiling will mix with the cooler air, heating the entire room.

Add Drapes

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Floor length curtains can reduce heat loss by 10%. The trick is to close them at night when the sun goes down, and open them during the day so the sunlight can naturally warm your home.

Weatherstrip Door and Window Frames

Using weatherstripping in your home to seal leaks around operable doors and windows can reduce utility bills all year round.

Periodically check the weatherstripping to ensure it’s not worn or torn.

If you can see the light peeking in from underneath your main entry and exit doors, you need to tack on a new strip.

And be sure to always lock your windows for a tighter seal.

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For stationary components such as electrical boxes, pipes, cables and gas lines, caulk or expanding foam are acceptable materials to fill in any gaps where air could escape.

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Add Insulation

While most attics are well insulated, the access door is usually an afterthought, but if not properly packed, can let warm air escape rapidly.

If the door does not lie perfectly flat, there is even more reason to stop the leak.

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Use an adhesive to simply attach the insulation to the attic side of the door, or build a foam box. If you still notice a draft, use a bolt lock for a snug fit.

Invest In New Tech

Programmable thermostats are now cheaper than ever and are a great tool for automatically dialing down the heat when you’re not home.

In fact, most energy experts say it’s a myth that it costs more to reheat a home than to maintain a house in a constant state of warmth.

Smart thermostats even learn your lifestyle and adjust on their own without manual programming. So save away!

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Posted in how-to's

Remove Old Caulk in 5 Easy Steps

Several readers have recently asked us what the best method is for removing peeling, grimy and frankly, ugly, caulk around fixtures in their bathroom and kitchen. The answer is that this project can be very simple and even more gratifying with the right tools and a lot of patience.

What You’ll Need:

  • Caulk remover
  • Caulk scraper (removal tools by Nisaku are more effective to use than utility knives or blades)
  • Tweezers or needle nose pliers
  • Paintbrush, foam brush or toothbrush
  • Alcohol
  • Bleach
  • Clan rag or cloth

Step 1

Soften the caulk by applying a remover. This requires patience. Most product instructions require an absorption period of 2-3 hours, but the longer you wait, the more effortless it will be to strip the caulk. If the material is very old, hardened or was applied with multiple layers, it  is best to wait at least 24 hours before attempting removal.

Step 2

Using a specialty caulk removal tool, pry the caulk loose. Nisaku has 3 caulk scraping tools: a straight edge .3 inch blade, a straight edge .5 inch blade and an angled .5 inch blade.

We recommend homeowners and DIY enthusiasts use these tools because they remove caulk without scratching glass, painted surfaces, tile or stone. The long, thin applicator is strong, yet will flex under pressure for controlled use and precision, to ensure smooth perfection upon project completion.

Most professionals use a utility knife or blade, but unless you have a very steady hand, you risk easily damaging the shower, sink, tub or wall you’re trying to improve.

Most of the caulk should dislodge in long strips that you can easily peel away from the wall, though you may need some assistance from a pair of tweezers or needle-nose pliers to get those stubborn bits.

Step 3

Using a putty knife with a curved tip, like this 4-inch model from Nisaku, or the hook end on a painter’s tool, like this one from Nisaku (equipped with a hammer end if you need extra leverage) scrape away any material left behind.

 Step 4

Deep clean the surface with alcohol and then use a solution of 1/3 cup bleach to 1 gallon of water to eradicate any mold or built up mildew. Using a paintbrush, foam brush or even an old toothbrush, work the mixture into the gap and scrub it clean. Lastly, dry the area with a clean cloth.

Step 5

If you’re re-caulking the surface, be sure to use a formula that contains a fungicide to combat future gunk and grime.

Posted in how-to's

How to Remove and Strip Paint from Wood Surfaces

Various home improvement projects involve a fresh coat of paint, but before you add a new one, the old material must be removed. We’ve created a comprehensive guide to help you get the job done with considerably less effort.

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What You’ll Need

  • Paint Remover
  • Sandpaper
  • Steel wool
  • Chemical-resistant gloves
  • Plastic film
  • Tarp (optional)
  • Scraping tools

Choosing The Best Scraping Tools

The secret to a perfect paint job is taking the time to properly prep the surface prior to painting, which in most cases, means scraping away the old finish down to bare wood.

While this is no one’s idea of fun, it is absolutely necessary, and requires the right tools.

Nisaku brand scrapers have super-sharp stainless steel blades. These professional quality scrapers vary in price and offer superior performance that will last a lifetime.

Nisaku paint scrapers come in a few different grade models and offer many different size and shaped blades:

Putty Knife

These tools come with both stiff blades, like a chisel, and flexible blades, like a spatula.

The stiff blade types can be resharpened and are very effective at removing loose or peeling paint. They may also have hammer ends which allow for maximum leverage to remove tough material.

Thin or flexible blade putty knifes are best used when applying spackling paste or putty.

Multipurpose Tool

These are the Swiss army knives of the painting world. Multipurpose tools are capable of performing many tasks beyond just removing loose paint.

With so many possible uses, this tool is an excellent choice to add to your work station.

Specialty Scrapers

If a piece of wood trim or cabinetry has a complex profile, you might consider a scraper made with that in mind.

With much scraping ahead of you, be sure to choose models that have ergonomic handles, like Nisaku, to ensure you’re comfortable throughout the entire project.

Stripping Methods

Chemical

Once applied, a chemical remover allows you to easily scrape paint off, and in most cases, it washes away nicely with water. Chemical removers come in both liquid and paste form for ultimate versatility.

Liquid

If you only need to remove a few layers of paint or varnish, a liquid remover is the best choice, as the solution dries too quickly for larger jobs. Liquids are also preferable if working in complicated or irregular areas.

Brushable

Brushable removers have a paste-like consistency and allow you to apply thick layers to any surface, which is ideal for stripping many layers of paint in one application.

Spray

A spray remover is very easy to apply, washes away with water, but still has enough tackiness to cling to any desired surface.

Aerosol

Aerosols are the cheapest stripping agents. They spray on as a foam and let you remove multiple layers of paint easily with a scraping tool. This method works best on small projects and detailed surfaces with many nooks and crannies which require precision.

Application + Removal

When applying the remover, be sure to only do so in an area that is small enough to manage. You do not want to cover an area which is too large because the chemical will dry out. We also recommend placing cardboard, newspaper or a tarp around your work area to make clean up easier.

If you’re taking on a big job, you can expedite the stripping process by using coarse sandpaper to scrape the surface. Just take special care not to scratch the material underneath. Apply the chemical solution and seal it under a plastic film to prevent it from drying out before it gets the chance to penetrate.

Most chemical agents typical need to saturate for 20-30 minutes, but be sure to follow the instructions on your packaging. Test the progress by scraping a small area; if the scraper blade has reached the bare surfacing, the remover has soaked long enough.

Once the chemical has softened the paint, it’s time to scrape! Keep your scraper level with the surface as best you can to avoid creating divots or making marks on the wood surface. After most of the paint has been removed, you can get any leftovers with steel wool or another abrasive tool to ensure a clean surface. Sometimes, you may have to apply another coat of the stripping agent in stubborn areas.

High-grade solutions can usually be rinsed with fresh water. Allow the surface to dry and then sand it lightly to prepare for the new coat of paint or varnish.

Posted in how-to's

How To Tile A Bathroom Floor Like A Contractor

Bathroom remodels don’t have to be insanely expensive, or a job left only to the experts. But don’t be fooled, laying down tile for even a small bathroom requires 15-20 hours of dedication. With equal parts hard work, planning and prior experience (we do not recommend trying this if you have little to no familiarity with DIY projects) you can accomplish updating your bathroom on any budget.

Remove Old Tile

Start by taking the bathroom door off the frame, emptying the entire room and removing any fixtures – this will ensure the process is easier, and gives you more room to work without obstacles.

Cut off the water supply before removing a sink or toilet. If removing a toilet, drain the reservoir, remove bolts and gently rock it to break the wax seal.

The most helpful tools for removing old tile are a hammer, chisel and pry bar.

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Carefully rip out the old tile. Depending on the construction of your home, the tile may be attached to bare cement, plywood or mason board. Whatever you encounter, exercise care and spend extra time removing materials because the ease and method of redoing the floor beneath depends on the condition of the surface.

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Once you’ve successfully removed the old tiles, clear any debris left behind with a shop vac or broom. Remove or pound any exposed nails, and ensure you’re leaving behind a flat surface.

Inspect the sub-floor for any damage that may need to be repaired before you lay new tile. You will have to replace rooted wood or patch divots in concrete floors if encountered before moving on. Once you’re surface is damage-free, you’re ready for the fun part.

Choosing New Tile

This is the easiest and most enjoyable part of tiling your bathroom (aside from admiring the final project).

Choose a tile pattern, material and colors that compliment your existing decor, and will remain timeless if you choose to eventually sell your home.

A trick for small bathrooms is to use diagonally placed tiles to make the room appear larger.

Creating A Template

Once you’ve removed the old tile and prepared the sub-floor, it’s time to get the pattern and placement of your new vision correct. Arrange the tiles in your desired design. This is a very important step, as you want to make sure everything fits correctly and looks as anticipated before you begin to cement.

Use chalk to trace the outlines of the tiles so you remember the placement, especially if you’re creating an intricate pattern. Don’t forget to add space for grout lines, so you know how much room you have left in the corners, and if you’ll need to cut the tiles to fit snugly for these nooks.

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If you are redoing the floor of a small bathroom, have your local hardware store cut the tiles for the edges.

Get a few pairs of gloves and even a set of knee pads just to make laying down tiles more comfortable.

Laying Down Tile

Once you’re confident in your placement and design, you’re ready to prep for cement.

Purchase a formula with top notch adhesive properties. Do not mix the entire bag at once – placing each tile takes a fair amount of time, and you don’t want your cement to dry up before you use it.

Investing in a notched trowel is critical when it comes to laying down tile. It ensures that the tiles are all placed at an even height, and that the cement sticks to the entire backside of the tiles.

Lay the tiles carefully, then use a wooden block and hammer to gently press them into place.

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It’s best to start at the center and then work your way to the corners so the grout lines are straight.

If you even encounter a problem midway, don’t feel embarrassed to call in an expert for help, and be proud of the work you completed on your own. Aside from saving some dough, the project is bound to give you some invaluable experience and an ability to handle future floor dilemmas with improved confidence!

Grout + Sealing

Using a grout float, apply the mixture evenly and gently sponge the tile surface when you’re finished.

Clean the tiles completely with a simple sponge and lukewarm water. This step is crucial, as it is the only chance you have to get those grout lines straight. Once the grout sets in, you will not be able to make any changes, so make sure everything is symmetrical.

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Do not enter the bathroom or step on the tiles for 24-48 hours. Once proper time has elapsed, you can wash the floor clean again.

Apply a sealer once everything has set. It will help keep the floor in tip-top shape for a longer period of time by making it more resistant to steam and water, and maintaining a shiny appearance.

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