Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Remodeling Made Easy: Prehung Doors

In a world where everything is compartmentalized, shrink-wrapped, solid-state, and plug 'n play, it's no surprise the construction market is responding with some ease of use strategies of their own.

Case in point - prehung doors. The concept isn't new; in fact, Home Depot is full of them. The issue is that most homeowners still see hanging doors as something mysterious. The fact of the matter is, installing a prehung door is easy if you just follow the sequence of steps; 1,2,3...

Variety is the Spice of Life

Yes, it's true even with doors. Prehung doors can be had as elegant mahogany entry doors or the lowly hollow-core interior closet door. No matter, they're all simple to work with, barring existing complications.

These kind of doors have long been the mainstay for commercial exterior doors; not the pretty front glass ones with the displays, but the heavy steel ones lurking out back in the alley by the dumpster.

I've installed a lot of these in my day, and thank goodness for the sturdy steel "spreader" at the base of the jambs. The block masons tend to knock things out of whack.

Time is of the Essence

The only time things are critical is when you're installing your home's front, back, or side door. Why? Well, you want to be able to lock up at night when you go to bed. The trick is to make sure you've got all your tools and materials laid out and get an early start.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Acoustic Drywall - Shhhh!

Acoustic drywall - is it soundproof? Well, not really. Just like you don't run into too many waterproof watches, just a lot of water-resistant ones. It's one of the best acoustical solutions in many situations though.

When Would You Use Sound - Dampening Drywall?

The best time to use this product is during new construction or during a remodel. It's possible to simply add a layer over an existing wall, but in most cases, the offset problems created make this impractical.

There's one situation that would make me go to the trouble of dealing with the offset issues - when installing a home theater.

QuietRock, Brought to You From Quiet Solution

Quiet Solution is a division of Serious Materials and is really at the forefront of this technology. Their solution of putting sound control in the wall itself sidesteps traditional techniques such as suspended baffles and wall-mounted acoustic panels.

The range of their customers speak volumes about the effectiveness of the product: Usher, Snoop Dog, KB Homes, Hitachi, Marriott, Hyatt Hotels, Ozzy Osbourne, and others.

QuietRock Installation

Acoustical drywall is installed just like regular drywall. If you can tape and float drywall already, you've got all the skills in your toolbox already.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Vintage Kitchen Cabinets - Very Retro!

The two rooms in your home that are gold in your pocket, from an equity point of view, are your bathroom and your kitchen. That's what a realtor told me. Given that fact, a bath or a kitchen remodeling project make sense. And some homeowners are opting for vintage kitchen cabinets.

Why a Vintage Kitchen?

Good question. There are three main reasons that make sense to me:
  1. For the same reason people gravitate towards comfort food in hard economic times. There's comfort in the old days and old ways.
  2. Functionality. Before microwaves, dishwashers, and trash compactors, things had to work. Things like hoosier cabinets. Things like California coolers. And things like vintage kitchen cabinets that stretch from the floor to the ceiling. Now that's storage space!
  3. Finally, it's stylish! Families are spending more time in the kitchen, just like they did in the days before dens with cheap paneling and shag carpets were hip.

Ceramic Tile Counter Tops VS Granite

Granite counter tops are currently very popular. But they're also quite expensive. Ceramic tile is just as attractive, cheaper, and at least as durable. Vintage kitchens were very big on tile after they got away from wood.

And they came up with some very attractive color patterns. How about jadite green with black? Or burgandy and yellow? If you go this route, be sure to use a top-notch grout sealer.

So indulge yourself with a kitchen makeover. This is certainly not the time to put your home on the market to trade up. Why not juice up your current home equity instead?

Friday, July 11, 2008

Supplemental Energy: Solar Panels

The current energy crisis seems to have everyone on the hot seat. Something of a similar nature seems to rear its ugly head every few years. Is it time for supplemental residential alternative energy? I think so. How about solar power?

The Benefits of Solar Energy

The benefits of solar energy are many. For one thing, there's no OPEC for energy captured by residential solar panels. Whereas the supply of petroleum can be manipulated, radiant energy cannot.

Installing PV (PhotoVoltaic) panels at at the home makes the homeowner eligible for certain state and federal tax benefits. The fact that this monetary incentive is provided indicates that the government might bankroll research for this type of alternative energy source.

Is Solar Energy Cost Effective?

In a nutshell, yes. There are up-front costs of course, but PV panels are extremely low-maintenance. Pay now, save long term. When you shop for panels, you'll need to consider the dollars per watt ratio.

Also, keep in mind that each panel model is rated by its conversion efficiency ratio. Taking these two analysis tool into consideration should help you make the right green electricity decisions for your personal situation.

Who Makes Solar Panels?

I found six major credible solar panel manufacturers. This isn't a totally inclusive list, of course, but I centered my research on companies that are already heavily funded in energy production. This gives them more research and development funding than a start-up might have.

The list includes BP, Kyosera, Suntech, Evergreen Spruce, Sharp, and General Electric. Suntech was recently chosen to power Bird’s Nest Stadium for the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympic Games.

Is solar power for you? Only you can decide. But if you're considering putting a new roof on your home, this is the time to consider it.

Monday, July 7, 2008

How to Hang Wallpaper

Trends in home decor are just like clothing and social attitudes: they swing back and forth like a pendulum. Paint or wallpaper, paint or wallpaper? Decisions, decisions.

Wallcovering Items: Wallpaper and Borders

Other than paint, these are the two things next in line that folks use to dress up their rooms. Use one or both for a quick decor redo. Either way, the first thing you'll have to do is prepare the wall for wallpaper.

This is easy enough on new construction, but involves a few more steps with a remodel project. As long as you're comfortable with, or willing to learn, drywall taping and floating, it's not a problem.

Hanging Your Wallpaper

Got the walls ready? All you've got to do now is finish the job. That means doing the work. It's not a tough task but it does take some patience and close attention to detail.

At this point you can hire a wallpaper contractor or hang the wallpaper yourself. I recommend doing it yourself, with a helper if possible.

Depending on how comfortable you feel with the job, you can buy regular residential paper or commercial rolls. The main difference is that the commercial stuff is twice as wide. This will make the job go faster if you have a large area to do with lots of long walls.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

My Evolving Workshop

I'll bet some of you are like me; your home workshop leaves a little to be desired, size-wise. Mine is the garage. This means you have to be creative in how you set it up and what you stock it up with.

Using Benchtop Power Supplies

Since your work space comes at a premium, this means a lot of benchtop power tools. A grinder, drill press, table saw, and more. This means installing a convenient benchtop power supply. Mine is in the form of a heavy-duty strip.

Since my workbench is on locking casters, when I move it around I connect it with a heavy-duty extension cord. If you do this, do it safely and be sure it can handle the load!

Using Benchtop Tools

Although my bench has a large drawer (boasting my very first attempt at hand-cut dovetail joints), it's pretty much wide open to store the tools that rotate off the top, depending on what project I'm working on.

When do I need to wheel it out? Mainly to use the benchtop table saw with extensions.

Future Workshop Plans

As you can imagine, the work, uh, I mean fun, is never done. The woodshop is the ever-evolving beast. In the future, I'd like to...
  • Design and build a good dust collection system.
  • Find a more efficient way to store lumber.
  • Re-design my odds-and-ends storage.

So, instead of doing, I sit here writing. But I am a freelance writer to support my DIY habit. You can relate, right?