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Easy Custom Window Well Covers

In this article I will show you a quick and easy way to make your own window well covers, allowing plenty of light to enter the space, and allowing for the all important emergency exit. You can purchase most size window well covers at your local home improvement store, but not all.

Through the years I have found that making a template saves money in the long run. I strongly suggest you make yourself a cardboard template of the window well. Most large box stores don’t carry sheets of Plexiglas, so you will need to call your local glass company and order the piece of Plexiglas or Lexan you will need for this project. Be sure to order ¼” thick Plexiglas or Lexan, at a minimum. The difference in price between the two will be substantial, with Lexan being shatter resistant. I went the Plexiglas route, but you will have to decide for yourself. Cutting the Plexiglas is pretty simple and straight forward. Install a plywood blade in your circular saw and a fine tooth blade in your jig saw. If you’re not comfortable cutting it yourself, most glass companies will do it for you, for an additional charge. If you have them cut the Plexiglas, remember to bring your template for them to use, and don’t forget to ask for the cutoff pieces. You can use them for smaller fun projects like coasters and picture frames.

To begin the installation measure the distance across the back of the window well, the straight edge, against the house and install a length of (pictured) angled strut, to fit. You know the kind I am talking about, the metal angle that is commonly used to hang garage door tracks and openers. Anchor that angle to the back wall, so it will serve as a place for the new cover to sit on, making sure the top of it is level with the top of the window well. If the front edge is straight you can do the same to it. If you have a continuous curve then cut 2 or 3 pieces of strut about 1″ to 2″ long and attach them to the inside of the front edge, spacing them evenly, making sure you have at least 1 solid hole in each bracket.

Wall Angle Strut

Lay the newly cut Plexiglas cover on your new framed opening, carefully centering it into position, and making sure to keep it firmly against the back wall. You can drill down through the Plexiglas into the front edge angled strut a 5/16″ drill bit. When you’re done drilling drop a ¼” clevis pin into each hole. You can secure each pin in place by slipping the locking clips into a hole in the clevis pin, from the inside. Now place a liberal bead of silicone (100% pure silicone) along the back edge and onto the siding or brick. The silicone will work as a seal but still be flexible enough to allow movement.

Well there you have it, a quick and easy window well cover that allows plenty of light into the space while keeping the rain, snow, and leaves out, while allowing easy exit in the event of an emergency.

Landscaping Your Yard? Think Concrete

Stamped Concrete PatioWhen you hear the word concrete you may not think that it’s something you would want in your yard. Concrete landscaping has come a long way in the last 10 years or so, and now it’s all the rage. You can use concrete landscaping in many different areas of your yard as well as many different applications.


Most people use concrete landscaping design ideas for the walkways and paths that wind through yards and gardens.  An option for any size yard would be a very inviting stamped concrete patio. Stamping is a process where the concrete is impressed before it sets with different patterns, such as stone and brick. Color can also be added in several ways to add more depth and realism. There are plenty of additional options for those with larger yards.


Stone walls are another form of concrete landscaping that has really caught on like wildfire. These walls run the perimeter of your property, essentially framing your home. They are very attractive and set the tone for other landscaping in your front, side, and back yards. There are several other reasons to have concrete landscaping such as walls. These walls are perfect for keeping your pet in the yard. If you have a dog that is prone to running away, inquire about this kind of concrete landscaping. These types of walls are also very good for keeping intruders out. The harder your home is to get in to the less likely burglars will try.

You can also use concrete landscaping to keep your soil in place, or separate grass from landscaped areas. If there is a part of your yard that is prone to slipping, or washing out you can build a retention wall expressly for this purpose. One of the great attributes about concrete landscaping is that while it can be serving a necessary function, it can look attractive as well. There is so much that you can do with concrete in terms of landscaping in major part because it is relatively easy to work with.

Pre-cast concrete landscaping blocks can be stacked and used for retaining or decorative walls. You can even build an entire BBQ pit with these pre-cast concrete landscape blocks. There are several companies that manufacture custom concrete landscaping stones that are unique and creative and are available in different shapes and patterns.

There are few things as relaxing as inviting some friends over and having a little party out on the patio, overlooking a beautiful landscaped yard. Take some time to visit your local home improvement store and see what all is out there in terms of concrete landscaping, you might just be surprised.

Sell Your Home; Features That Help

We all have known for years that attractive and functional kitchens and bathrooms sell homes, and this general trend has not changed during the market downturn, but in a recent survey that rated key living spaces, another feature was tops in the results.

Rating on a 1 to 10 scale, features people most wanted in their home, master bedroom walk in closets came out on top with an 8.24 rating, followed by a great room, (kitchen, living, and dining combo space) at 7.77. Higher ceilings (over 9’) were next at 7.43 followed closely with energy-efficient features at 7.25.

In the continued shift towards working from your home, a formal office space without a separate entrance rated 5.88 as a key feature they needed. An informal office space or computer nook rated 5.75.

In the outdoor space category oversized garages topped the results with a 7.23, a 2 car garage rated 7.05 and a 3 car rated 6.96. We do love our garages.

Switching gears to key features in existing space, kitchen area islands were tops with 7.24 followed by a walk-in pantry at 6.98. Following the pantry was a breakfast nook or breakfast bar rated high at 6.59 and 6.58 respectively. Despite the Green movement a recycling center was rated at 4.55.

Not surprisingly a double vanity or double bowl in the bathroom was deemed necessary by a whopping 84% of respondents. A second bathroom with a tub/shower combo scored 7.23. Other high-ranking bathroom features were additional storage space 6.84 and universal design features at 5.61.

Although the trend towards slightly smaller homes has continued buyers continue to want upgraded features in their homes. Building these sought after features into a smaller footprint calls for creative design and flex space, but will be worth the time, energy and expense when it’s time to sell.

Unclogging a Toilet; Use The Correct Toilet Plunger

There are 2 types of plungers, one is for sinks and the other is for toilets.  I suggest you invest in both types of plungers.

Sink Plunger

Picture 1.1


The plunger that is shaped like a ball cut in half, picture 1.1 is a sink plunger.

Click on the picture to purchase.





Picture of Toliet Plunger

Picture 1.2


The plunger pictured in 1.2 with an extended throat, is a normal toilet plunger.

Click on the picture to purchase.




Bellows Toilet Plunger

Picture 1.3


Pictured in 1.3 is a bellows style toilet plunger, used to clear stubborn blockages. This type of toilet plunger can deliver up to 7 times the force in clearing a clogged toilet.
Click on the picture to purchase.






Side view of toliet drain

Picture 1.4


In picture 1.4 we show the side view of a toilet. The “S” section of the toilet is where the majority of blockages occur and a toilet plunger is adequate for removing these types of blockages.






Homeowner Toilet Auger

Picture 1.5
Purchase Here


If the blockage is at the bottom of the toilet where it transitions into the waste pipe you should be able to clear it with a tool called a toilet snake, pictured in 1.5. If it is further down the line you will most likely have to pull the toilet and rod the main line. This effort will require a plumber or at least a serious do-it-yourself person and a rented rodding machine.

Click on the picture to purchase.





To properly operate either type of plunger you will need to submerge it into the standing water, as I demonstrate in the video.  You  use the plunging motion to move the standing water into and through the drain and force the blockage down the pipe.


If by chance someone has dropped a toy,hairbrush, toothbrush, etc. you probably should spend some effort trying to retrieve it rather than pushing it further down the pipe. To do this slowly compress the plunger, holding it at a slight angle to the throat of the toilet and with it compressed slide it securely into the throat and let it pop up. This motion may help to suck the object back into the bowl.

I hope this article and my How To Use a Toilet Plunger video has helped you understand the different types of plungers and how to correctly use a toilet plunger.

A Quick and Easy Basement Ceiling Finsih

When you are finishing your basement there are a couple options to finish your ceiling. The obvious solution is installing drywall. If the electric and plumbing were routed with a drywall ceiling in mind this will work, but if there are water shutoffs, plumbing traps and electrical junction boxes you will have to access in the future a drywall ceiling is not the correct choice.

A second common choice is a drop or suspended ceiling. Typical ceiling tile size options are 2’x2’ and 2’x4’. These drop ceilings are available in many styles and finishes from relatively inexpensive to very expensive.

A simple and inexpensive solution that is used in some restaurants and bars is to paint everything above the top of the wall line in flat black. The eye will naturally go to the things on the walls and make the ceiling visually “disappear”. If you have a lot of pictures, memorabilia, other wall hangings or a busy flooring material it will help the eye to be drawn to it, look for this treatment the next time you are out to dinner in one of the chain dine-in restaurants.

I suggest you spray the paint on, with an airless sprayer. The last basement job I completed I burned up 2 Wagner sprayers, so I would recommend you rent a commercial sprayer. Another tip is to purchase double the amount of paint you think you will need, it goes fast when spraying. Since it is a stock color, flat black, you can return any you don’t use. Remember to keep some to touch up any new pipes or wires you install down the road.

A couple fans set up to blow overspray out an open basement window will help a lot. Don’t forget to cover anything left out with old blankets or plastic because the overspray will cover it. If you spray after you sand the drywall walls, the mess will be kept to a minimum.

There you have it, a quick and inexpensive way to finish your ceiling, and a very attractive one too.

Check out this video to see what the finished product looks like.      BasementCeilingBlackFinished

Change a Sump Pump Easily

Sometimes it seems like the sump pump has it out for people. It will never go bad at 11 am on a Saturday when you are just sitting around. It will go out in the middle of a storm, 11pm on a Sunday. However, changing a sump pump is not as difficult as you would think.

It seems like there are as many choices in sump pumps as there is ham at the deli counter. You should match your pump with the application. How big is your sump pit, what is the vertical height the pump has to push the water, and how many gallons per minute do you expect the unit to pump?

Now you could do all the figuring called for above or just go out and buy a 1/2 hp pump if your vertical lift is 10′ or less (measured from the basement floor to the exit through the wall) and your basement footprint is 1500 sq ft or less.

Unplug the pump and secure the cord so it does not fall into the pit. Draw a line with a marker on the bottom pipe right below the check-valve. Loosen the hose clamp/s on the bottom of the check-valve, letting it slide down the pipe. The check-valve only lets water flow in one direction (look for the arrow) and in this instance that would be up. If you loosen the top connection all the water in the pipe above will drain downward and all over you. Slide the pump one way or the other while gently pulling the check-valve towards your body. You may have to insert a screwdriver up between the pipe and the rubber of the check-valve to loosen it before pulling.

Once you have the pipe and valve separated, lift the pump out of the pit and set it on a couple towels so it can drain. Remove the new pump from the box and review the instructions that came with it. Place the new pump next to the existing one and note if the outlet, where the pipe attached is the same height. If it is the same height then you simply unscrew the pipe from the old pump and attach it to the new pump.

If they are different heights you need to make a new pipe. If the difference is less than ½” it will probably still work, providing you will have at least 1″ of pipe into the check-valve. Use the mark you placed on the pipe under the valve to measure from. Measure from the floor to the top of the pipe and write the measurement down. Using the same diameter pipe as you have now, attach a new pipe to the new sump pump using the measurement you took off the old pump. I suggest using PVC pipe because it is so easy to work with.

After you have the pipe installed secure the cords to it using wire ties or electrical tape. Slide the hose clamp over the new pipe and let it slide down. Place the pump into the pit, tipping it slightly slide the pipe into the check valve. Slide the hose clamp up and secure the check-valve. Stand back and make sure your pipes are straight, if not slide the pump over a little. Secure the remaining cord and plug it in. If the pump does not turn on and there is water in the pit you can manually turn the pump on by lifting the float if you have that style. If not you will need to fill the pit using some buckets or run a hose into the pit until the water level activates the pump switch. The last thing after checking for leaks is to replace the lid.

Remember to file the papers that came with the pump, and send in any warranty information. You are now protected for many years to come, unless there is a power outage, but that is another article.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/7013222

Remodeling Your Bathroom; Choosing Your New Bathtub

If you could change one thing about your bathroom, what would you like to change? If you are like many other homeowners, there is a good chance that the bathtub was your response.  In the United States, there are a fairly large number of homeowners who wish that they had a new bathtub.  If you are one of those individuals, did you know that you don’t have to wish any longer? If you want a new bathtub, you should get one.  Making a new bathtub part of your bathroom remodeling project isn’t as difficult as it may seem.

Perhaps, the first step in choosing a new bathtub is determining how much money you can afford to spend on one. If you are also remodeling the rest of your bathroom, it is important that you not only focus on the cost of a new bathtub, but also the cost of your other supplies. If you mistakenly spend too much on a new bathtub, the rest of your bathroom remodeling plans could suffer. Also, you will likely find that having a bathtub limit or budget is the best way to save time while shopping. Knowing how much money is too much to spend will prevent you from wasting your time, by examining bathtubs that you cannot even afford.

It is also a good idea to determine, ahead of time, how your new bathtub will be installed.  If you are planning on having a professional install your new bathtub for you, you will need to keep the extra costs in mind. Although you may want to avoid paying a professional contractor, you may need to. There are a number of bathroom contractors who specialize in replacing bathtubs. In fact, some, literally, just place a new bathtub liner right over the old one.  It may be possible for you to do this yourself, but, in most cases, you will find that a professional contactor could have your new bathtub installed in as little as a few hours.

Regardless of whether you choose to install your own bathtub or have a professional do it for you, you will need to decide what type of tub you want. The old standard is a tub made from cast iron. These tubs are very heavy, solid, and last forever. Of course they tend to cost more. Another option is fiberglass, PVC, steel or a synthetic material called AmeriCast, blending the best old and new.  The thinner a tub is the less heat it holds and it will sound hollow. A standard tubs measure 60” or 5’ long. If you are a taller individual or just like to soak in a tub and you have the room I suggest you look into a 72” or 6’ soaker tub, where you can really stretch out,

When a new bathtub replaces an old bathtub, the tubs need to be the same size or style. Therefore, if you are remodeling your bathroom with the hopes of getting a “new,” bathroom, you may be looking for something different.  Luckily for you, you still have an unlimited number of options.

In the United States, the most commonly installed types of bathtubs are often connected right to the wall, placed in a corner, and sit directly on the floor.  What is nice about most traditional bathtubs is that they are relatively affordable.  You can purchase a traditional bathtub for as low as two hundred dollars.  If you are looking for comfort, instead of price, you may want to look into spa-like bathtubs or even massage bathtubs. These bathtubs, as you may assume, cost more than most others.  Many massage bathtubs or spa-like bath tubs retail for around one or two thousand dollars.  If you are looking for a trendy, stylish bathtub, you may prefer to own a freestanding bathtub. Freestanding bathtubs can cost as low as five hundred dollars, but they can also reach into the thousands.

Once you have decided which type of bathtub you would like to purchase, you will need to decide on a particular tub. Perhaps, the best way to do this is to start your shopping. You may find it easier to make a decision when you can see bathtub displays set up.  For a wide selection of bathtubs, including displays, you are advised to checkout one of your local home improvement stores.


Basement Metal Window Frame Replacement

In many areas of the country homes are built with basements. The windows in those basements are set into a metal frame which in turn is set in the concrete foundation. These windows are surrounded by a metal window well on the outside. As time passes these frames begin to rust and deteriorate to a point where they leak water or the window will not function properly. This can also cause a major safety concern as these windows are often the only way to escape in the event of a fire or other disaster when the stairway is blocked. In this article I will show you a permanent attractive solution to solve this problem.

The solution is actually pretty easy, however the material selection has always been the sticking point; but not anymore. Enter Azek wood products and their solid plastic line of dimensional lumber. Azek wood is approved for contact to concrete, below grade applications, as well as wet conditions. There isn’t any off gassing problem like conventional treated lumber and it’s extremely easy to work with, and it’s readily available at most home improvement stores like Home Depot, Menards and Lowes.

Azek wood takes care of the frame, now we need a window solution. Replacement windows work well in this application and are available in custom sizes from many sources. I particularly like ABC Supply and their Vinyl Max Radiance line of windows. Keeping in mind that this window needs to serve as an escape window I would suggest using a side to side slider type window as they can be removed quickly and easily. This window also operates smoothly and you don’t need a lot of strength to remove the window.

The first step in the actual project is to measure the inner most part of the existing metal frame and make your shopping list of the appropriate widths and lengths of Azek lumber that will make up the frame. When measuring for the thickness, (depth) remember you don’t have to extend the new frame to the face of the existing drywall, rather just past the existing metal frame you are covering. If you cannot find Azek wood wide enough you can edge join it, using their specified glue. You can also choose to use a biscuit joiner if you desire. Measure the width in 3 places and the height in 3 places. Using the smallest measurement determine the width and height, then subtract ¼ “ and build your square frame to the thickness (depth) you determined previously. Azek wood has recommended screws and glue that you should use when joining their product.

After your square frame is built you are going to build a “picture frame” on one face of it. Using their 3” wide product, overhang the outside by 1 3/4” (you can overhang more, but watch available clearances) and overhang the inside edge by ½”. The overhang on the inside will serve as a backstop for the window unit. If you are having trouble visualizing this, think about the casing (trim) on any door or window in your home. You can miter the corners or square cut them, wherever your skill level is. You can attach each piece as you go, or you can build it as a separate unit and attach it as one unit.

Once this step is complete you are ready to dry fit the assembled unit into the opening. Remove the existing window and lower the new frame into the window well and slide it into the opening. You may have to work from the inside and/or have an assistant to help set it into the existing metal frame.

Measuring for the window is the next step. Measure the inside, again in 3 places for the width and 3 places for the height. This will give you the outside window dimension you will need to order. Do not subtract from the measurement until you speak to your window dealer, as they will help you with the tolerance.

I recommend you install the frames now and put a piece of plywood in the opening temporarily rather than waiting until you have received the windows. Just be aware that if you use plywood you will most likely lose the ability to exit quickly in the event of an emergency.

Once you are ready to install the frames, place a heavy bead of clear silicone (100% pure silicone, not acrylic) on the inside of the outside overhang frame and slide it into the opening.  One advantage to installing the frames ahead of the windows is you can give the silicone time to set. To secure the frame you may need to install a TapCon type screw into the foundation on either side.  When your frame is set run a liberal bead of silicone around the joint between the foundation and the new frame, remembering pure silicone is not paintable. If you do not use Tapcon screws you will have to wait until the silicone has cured overnight before continuing.

Have a piece of plywood precut to fill in the opening until the silicone adheres. After the silicone has set you can dry fit the window into the frame. If it fits snugly remove it and place a bead of silicone against the stop and re-insert the window. To further secure the window rip several inside stops from the Azek wood product. These stops should hide the gap between the frame and the midpoint of the edge of the actual window frame. They should be about ½” to 1” wide. You can use a router to give them a slight round over on the exposed corner to give it a nice finish. If you were lucky enough to start with a square frame then you may not even need these stops, simply apply a bead of caulk in the joint.

You will need to install stops from the outer most edge of the new frame you made to the drywall or existing metal frame. Just measure the width of the gap and follow the steps outlined above.

There you have it, a very permanent and attractive solution to a problem that has needed a quality solution for a long time. For an easy solution to another problem read my article on custom window well covers.


No Contract Equals Horror Story

Every remodeling project, no matter what size should have a contract. Obviously on very small jobs, a contract might be a 3 or 4 line description of the job. On other larger jobs it can be pages long with a description of the work to be performed, with product specification, including manufacturers and model number information. In addition there should be a section defining the owner’s responsibilities and the course of action to be taken in case of a disagreement, if the parties cannot work it out among themselves. Lastly the payment schedule should be outlined including allowable hold back amounts in the case of a disagreement.

This all sounds nice and neat and in some cases unnecessary, right? When you are doing a small job, for a friend, who needs all that, right? WRONG. All the more reason you need a contract. Let me share a story.

In November of 2011 I was contacted by a casual friend who had been through the loss of a business and bankruptcy and was renting a home for their family. They had an opportunity to buy a home and wanted some minor changes before they moved in, could I help them?

I thought sure why not, this is what I do. They sent me some pictures and a description of the work needed. They also told me they had a budget of about 3k. I thought it would be slightly more than that for what they wanted, but they were friends. I asked them to let me look at the house and I could give them a solid number. If it was a little over their budget we could work it out over a month or two.

The house was currently a rental house and the tenant wasn’t being very cooperative. They would see if we could get in again. I got into the house 2 days before closing and wrote an email to them describing the work and cost of $3500. They said they would give me $1700 to start and $1000 from their security deposit and they asked if we could work the rest out. I told them yes we could and when could I start? They wanted me to start the morning of closing. I was a little uncomfortable with that but we only had 10 days to rip out all the carpet, install new 4” base upstairs as well as installing crown molding in the entire upstairs and paint it all, have new carpet installed (their responsibility) and clean so they could move in.

They stopped in about 3 and announced they had not closed, it was rescheduled for tomorrow. I had a sick feeling in my stomach. We had ripped out all the carpet, base, and 2 sheets of drywall where we had found a leak, we also stripped wallpaper from 2 bathrooms upstairs. Not to worry they said; by the way could I install prefinished hardwood upstairs? Where upstairs I replied. The whole upstairs, 3 bedrooms and the hallway, the bathrooms could stay tile, and how much would it cost? I worked up the price and no sooner then had I given it to them they asked if I could put can lights in the kitchen ceiling? During the next few days they added a few more things and to make a long story short the total grew to $13,800. They had paid me the initial deposit of $1700 and then the $1000 payment, so the balance was $10,900.

We were finishing the painting as they were moving in, everything was completed. Honestly I was kind of proud I got it all done in such a short time period. I have an outstanding team. I gave them a few days to settle in before I sent a final bill. Two days later I had not heard anything, so I called, and left a message. Finally after another email a couple messages and a week had passed I finally received a call from them. We need to talk can we meet and talk about the bill. Not what I wanted to hear. Well another week passed and we sat down to talk.

The husband began to question some of the charges. This was the first he had seen the bill. Quite puzzled I told him I had sent it 2 weeks ago. He said “I never saw it”. We talked it through and he calmed down. He said he was more frustrated with the whole situation and not mad at me, good to hear. He went on to say they did not have the money to pay this bill and the best he could do was $600 a month. I told home that would take over a year; it was unacceptable. He said take it or leave it, that was the best they could do. Did I mention these were friends of mine?

I wrote it all out and got them to sign a document including interest. They made 3 payments and basically stopped. I am still fighting with them for my money, 15 months later. Honestly I will be surprised if I even get ½ of the original balance not including interest.

The moral of this story is never, ever, perform work without a detailed contract, no matter who it is.

Home Theater Design Made Easy

Maybe you thought having a home theater system in your home would be an un-affordable luxury. True, not many households can afford a truly state of the art home theatre system, with a 12’ ceiling, but most people can afford a basic system.  Home theater systems are now available to greater number of households because of the lower cost of components and TV’s. The basic home theater design really only requires three basic components and these three components are very affordable to virtually everyone.


Before you get very far into the designing stage, you need to assess the size of the room you will be using for your home theater experience. The size of your home theater room will determine the components and speakers you will need to maximize the experience.


Home theater expert’s recommendation for smaller rooms is a wall mounted flat screen television set, three speakers and a DVD player. The actual home theater design may be dependent on the shape of the room; however, the position of the speakers will remain basically the same. One to the left, one to the right and one in the center rear of the room.  Basic home theater design really requires a television set bigger than 27 inches. If you chose a smaller screen it may not be sufficient for a movie theater-like experience. Even for a home theater design, you will want to consider the sight and sound of a movie theater and try to duplicate that. Those sights and sounds are the reason why people go to a movie theater; the big screen and the surround sound are a major part of that experience.


Although the basic three speaker design may be sufficient for a smaller room, the larger rooms demand more speakers. In a larger room you may want to go up to six speakers, even adding a complimenting subwoofer may be necessary for the true surround sound effect. Whatever size room you have I strongly suggest spending the extra money you have available to purchase the best speakers you can, because they are the core of the sound experience.


When purchasing your speakers make sure that the store where you buy your speakers will allow you to test the product in your room. If the speakers don’t give you the quality sound you are looking for, the store will allow you to return them.  Don’t be fooled by the sales pitch, you can hear how well they sound right here in our showroom. Things such as the shape of the room, floor and ceiling materials and wall coverings can and will affect the quality of the sound. Test them in your home, or don’t buy.


If your budget is larger you may consider hiring an independent home theater designer. Your home theater designer will be able to design the complete home theater system, complete with furnishings and accessories.  He may recommend using home theater projectors, instead of a flat screen as well as a different arrangement for the speakers.


Whatever your budget is your efforts will create a movie experience, without having to fight the traffic jam. Who knows you may even be able to afford a theater style popcorn maker!! Enjoy!

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