Month: May 2018

Noisy Pipes

Noisy pipes can be caused by several factors. Let’s start with what is commonly known as water hammer. Water rushing through the pipe and out the faucet moves with speed and force. When you shut off the faucet, the water flow is brought to an abrupt halt. But that energy has to go somewhere. So normally in the wall behind each hot and cold faucet is an air chamber in the pipe. It used to be about 10 inches of pipe soldered vertically. Then when the rushing water was stopped it would push up that vertical pipe where it would hit a cushion of air in the pipe. And that would prevent the water force from causing the pipes to rattle, or hammer. Now there are commercial air cushions that are attached to the pipe in the same place and do the same job.

Hammering can develop because over years the air in that little vertical riser is lost, and thus the cushioning effect is lost. You can often correct this by shutting off the main water, opening all faucets and then draining the whole house from the lowest faucet. When you restore water, air will be again pushed into the risers designed to prevent water hammer.

Another cause of plumbing noise is a loose pipe under the house. The flushed water moves rapidly and in large volume and can cause a pipe to sway, setting up a rattling effect. Drain pipes are usually suspended from the floor joists under the house and a little stabilization may be all that is needed. By crawling under the house with a flashlight while someone flushes the toilet, you should be able to find the source by listening and looking.

Whistling or squealing in pipes is often caused by a worn out washer in a faucet or valve. A common source of this squealing is in the valves that connect to the washing machine. If you notice the squealing sound comes when the washer is working, you have an easy solution. First, shut off the valve and check the washers in the hose. Replace if they look worn or cracked. If that isn’t it, shut off the house water and repair the faucet. One of the faucet’s washers is likely worn or the valve seat is worn, causing water to be forced through a smaller opening and setting up the noise.

Another source of squealing, particularly when it seems to resonate through the whole house, can be either the main shut off valve for the house or the water pressure regulator. For the main shut off, turn off the water at the street valve first and then replace or repair the main house valve. If that isn’t it and you have a pressure reducer on your incoming cold water line, it may be in the reducer’s manifold.

Yet another noise problem can come from the toilet. If, after flushing, you hear a banging or rattling at the end of the fill cycle, then it is likely that the ballcock assembly, which controls the fill process, is worn. Depending on the style and how new it is, you might be able to repair it. Otherwise, replace it with a better one.

Types of Floor Tile

While hardwood floors have certainly come of age these past few years, tile flooring is still the most popular flooring option. With its versatile nature and natural looks in a kitchen or bathroom, it’s hard to imagine a home without decorative tile.Given its vast popularity, tile manufacturers have done their best to give homeowners as many options as possible. However, some present unique advantages, in price and function, that others don’t.Below, I will list the major types of tile flooring, as well as some of their characteristics, costs, advantages and disadvantages.

Ceramic Tile

Of all the tile types, ceramic offers far and away the most design possibilities and many experts agree that it’s the best bang for your buck. Ceramic tile is also known for its resistance to stain and colorful applications.

According to our ceramic tile (material) cost estimator, this decorative tile is made by mixing natural mineral clays and water. Typical tiles are 1/2” to 3/4″ thick and most commonly measure 4X4”. Different sizes are available, but are less common. The finish can be smooth and glossy or made with a less shiny matte coating. Some tiles are left with a more natural finish, such as terra cotta.

Types of Ceramic Tile

As I said, there are numerous types and designs of ceramic tile:

  • Porcelain Tile: Water resistant and can include different coatings. Some homeowners install porcelain tile that has been covered with a slip resistant finish.
  • Terra Cotta Tile: Has a very natural and earth-toned look, but it should be sealed to resist staining and extend wear.
  • Glazed Tile: Can be single or double fired. Single firing creates a sturdier tile. Gloss finishes are attractive, but may scratch.
  • Mosaic Tile: Tends to resist staining and are moisture resistant. Additionally, they won’t chip as easily as other types.
  • Quarry Tile: Are typically installed outdoors where the temperatures are moderate to high and rarely reach freezing. They were created as a durable option to outdoor weather.

Ceramic Tile Costs

To determine the total cost of ceramic tile, you must look at the installation and materials costs. As our material estimator points out, most homeowners pay a maximum of $1,200 or a minimum of $425 for 500sf of ceramic tile. According to our friends over at HomeAdvisor, with the material costs included, the average cost of a ceramic tile project is $1,912.

To hear more about ceramic tile costs, let us connect you with a flooring contractor nearby

Ceramic Tile Advantages

As I previously mentioned, ceramic tile will be cheaper than most tile options on the block. Ceramic is very durable and unless you are bowling in your house, it’s very hard to crack. Given its hard texture, ceramic tile is very easy to clean and compared to other tile types, you have an abundance of designs to choose from.

Ceramic Tile Disadvantages

No flooring comes without its downsides. Given its exterior, some homeowners don’t enjoy standing on such a hard flooring material. Ceramic tile can’t be softened either. Additionally, hard tile surfaces also bring the cold. Ceramic tile does not hold heat very well. While ceramic tile is great in the summer, it’s not as nice in the winter.

Finally, installing ceramic tile involves a variety of different kinds grouts and tools. Just like this Lowe’s commercial, installation, whether it be shower or floor tiles, can be tricky.

Stone Tile

When it comes to the upper echelon of tile floors, many people choose stone. While ceramic tile is a durable option, there isn’t a safer or more reliable tile option than stone. With proper maintenance, it should last a lifetime.

Types of Stone Tile

Homeowners who select stone tile will have a few options to choose from:

  • Granite Tile: Gives your flooring a unique character that can’t be matched. If your floors see very heavy traffic, granite is the way to go.
  • Marble Tile: Gives a home that elegant or traditional appearance so many desire.
  • Slate Tile: Of all the stones, slate does a great job of resisting fading and chemicals, which makes cleaning slate tile floors that much easier.
  • Limestone Tile: Is formed by settled sedimentary rocks that pressurized at the bottom of the ocean. Limestone tile can look very similar to wood, a good alternative if you’re looking for a more modern touch.

Stone Tile Costs

As a whole, stone tile is more expensive than ceramic tile. However, if you can’t live without stone, limestone would be your best bet, as we point out in our limestone material cost estimator.

While it’s not a huge disparity, the average cost of a stone tile flooring project is $2,083, which is about 9% higher than ceramic tile.

Stone Tile Advantages

There is not a more durable tile floor than stone. Depending on your stone type, homeowners can also add a distinctive appearance with the speckled materials in granite or the wood-like features in limestone. Once stone tile is polished, it resists scratching like no other tile. As such, it’s a tremendously popular flooring option for kitchens.

Stone Tile Disadvantages

Unlike ceramic tile, stone tile is not always stain resistant, making maintenance costs higher and cleaning times longer. In order to prevent stains, homeowners will have to seal their stone tile floors so water doesn’t seep in.

Of course, the big one will be price, as stone tile is more expensive that ceramic.

The Others: Faux Wood, Glass or Metal


One up and coming option in the tile flooring arena is faux wood tile. As my colleague Alyson Yu recently discussed in The Next Hot Trend In Tile: Faux Wood Tile, faux wood is indeed a ceramic or porcelain tile that emulates real wood. More often than not, homeowners will not be able to distinguish real wood from faux wood tiles.

Finally, while they are not widely known, glass or metal tile give homeowners an exclusive look and feel many of their neighbors will never see. They’re primarily used for decorative purposes (like walls) and as you probably assumed, come with a higher price tag than ceramic

11 Small Kitchen Ideas That Make A Big Difference

You love cooking shows and you wish you could cook like a top chef. Ideally, your kitchen should be big enough to accommodate a variety of appliances, not to mention, a huge island that allows you to prepare meals with your significant other and children. However, given that the average home size is shrinking, your kitchen is probably more like a cramped nightmare.

Don’t let your small kitchen limit your culinary dreams. There are tons of small kitchen design ideas that can make your tiny kitchen more efficient and look bigger. Check out some of my favorite ideas and learn how to make the most of your small kitchen.

Keep Work Triangle in Mind

The kitchen work triangle may sound like a cliché. Yet, we can’t deny how helpful the concept is when it comes to enhancing the workflow in a small kitchen. The work triangle connects your three main work areas—the sink, stove and refrigerator. The distance between any two should be two easy steps. This layout allows you to keep your major appliances in an efficient work zone, making cooking a much easier task in your small kitchen.

Don’t know how to set up your work triangle? Talk to some local pros.

Go with White

An all-white kitchen can create an illusion of roominess, as it offers a seamless transition from walls to floors. Of course, not everyone appreciates the clean look of white. To add interest to a plain white kitchen, try to mix and match different textures or shades of white within your accessories.

Crave bold colors in your kitchen? Just follow one rule: give your walls, floors and finishes the same color palette to prevent color overload.

Brighten It Up

No matter which color palette you finally go with, your kitchen should get as much light as possible. Sufficient lighting will make a small kitchen feel spacious. If you can, install a large window with simple treatments to make the most of the natural light.

Besides natural lighting, consider adding under-cabinet lights to brighten up your shadowy countertops. This way, your cramped kitchen will become more functional and attractive.

Add the Illusion of More Space

We all know that mirrors can double a room’s visual size, so why not use mirrors as your backsplashes? Mirrored backsplashes help reflect the light, the view and open up your space. The only downside is that you have to clean it regularly to maintain the clean look.

Sound like a great addition in your kitchen? See the installation cost of mirrored backsplashes in your area.

Install Glass Doors for Upper Cabinets

Another way to make your small kitchen look bigger is to replace your solid cabinet doors with glass ones. Glass cabinet doors not only give your cabinetry a lighter look, but also lead your eyes into the depth of the cabinets. Using this trick will make your small kitchen seem visually airy.

Since you can see everything in your cabinets, make sure you tidy up your glassware or dishware. Clutter makes your tiny space even smaller.

Put Baskets Above the Cabinets

Do you have empty space between the top of your cabinets and the ceiling? While many homeowners hate the awkward space, small kitchen owners should see it as a potential storage space. You can store your seasonal kitchen appliances to free up your counter space. To avoid dusty and cluttered problems, use baskets that can fit in the space.

Choose Compact Appliances

Just because you have a small kitchen doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice on essential kitchen appliances. Appliance manufacturers are now offering all sorts of compact appliances to work with any tiny space. Even if a slim refrigerator can’t fit in your kitchen, you still have some other options, such as an under-counter fridge.

To add extra workspace, you can install an electric cooktop that can double as a countertop. Or, hang your microwave underneath cabinets to yield more counter space. Both tactics are effective when it comes to streamlining a small kitchen.

Reduce Visual Weight with Open Shelving

If your kitchen is rather small, consider installing open shelves instead of cabinets. Compared to upper cabinets, open shelving is less bulky. Its streamlined look helps provide the illusion of a more expensive space. Moreover, open shelves allow you to show off your favorite collections. This is a great chance to add some pops of color and personalities to your small kitchen.

Store on the Wall

Don’t waste any usable wall space. Your counter is a valuable work area in your small kitchen. You should save the space for cooking preparation and avoid storing any kitchen utensils on the surface. Go for a wall-mounted rack to hang your pots. Also, try to install a small curtain rod near your pot rack so you can keep your lids within reach.

Looking for space to store your knifes? A magnetic strip on the wall will come in handy.

Maximize Storage with A Pullout Pantry

Believe it or not, your small kitchen can store more than you think. Check the side of your refrigerator. In most cases, you will find a four to 10 inch gap between the refrigerator and the wall. Make use of the space by installing a large pullout pantry. It’s a great idea for storing canned goods and spices that usually take up too much cabinet space.

Use A Rolling Cart As Your Island

No room for an island? Go for a rolling cart that can do double duty instead. For example, a rolling cart with a butcher block top will give you additional storage space as well as an extra prep area. You can even use it as a buffet table and move it around your house when hosting a dinner party. Most importantly, when it’s not in use, just put it away to save precious square footage

DIY Tips For How To Remove Vinyl Flooring, Old Linoleum Or Glue

One of the most frustrating home remodeling tasks is trying to remove an old linoleum or vinyl floor. Even when the linoleum is pulled off, things only get worse. Now you’re faced with gobs of old glue that seem harder than meteorites all over the floor.

Before getting depressed while reading this article, remember that there are a few ways around this formidable task.

Alternative Approaches

One common alternative to removing old linoleum or vinyl floors is to put a new one right over it. If the existing floor is still smooth or can be smoothed with a few patches of FixAll, then the new floor can be laid directly on top of the old.

In some cases, a layer of 1/4-inch plywood is laid over the old floor to provide a smooth base and then the new resilient floor is laid on that. In still another approach, the old floor is floated with a self-leveling concrete that is about 1/8-inch thick when dry. The new floor is put on that.

When adding a new floor, particularly when adding plywood or self-leveling concrete, consider that this process is going to raise your floor noticeably. The most important concern is that it will not connect smoothly with the adjacent floors. This height difference could trip the unwary, particularly guests or the elderly. Also, you will not have the same clearance under the toe kicks and you may have a problem in the future sliding out your dishwasher, refrigerator, or stove.

Removing old linoleum or vinyl is generally quite difficult because wood, a common subfloor, is porous, thus absorbing the adhesives. One reason why the old glues must be thoroughly removed is because some older adhesives had oils in them that chemically react with new vinyl to cause a yellow discoloration. Most warranties on new vinyl do not cover this type of failure.

Another reason the old adhesives must be removed if you’re installing vinyl stripping is because they can eventually become brittle. If old glue breaks loose under new vinyl, it can cause failures in the new floor covering. Moreover, any bumps or cracks in an old floor will soon appear as bumps or cracks in your new linoleum.

Homeowners also need to be aware that asbestos was used in some old linoleum and flooring adhesives, particularly in those made in the 1970s and earlier. Removing this material involves a health risk. If in doubt about your resilient flooring, break a small piece from a corner or behind the refrigerator and take it to an asbestos abatement firm for testing. Wetting the vinyl as you break it off and putting it in a baggie will keep any possible asbestos fibers from flying around. Asbestos abatement firms can be found in the Yellow Pages.

If asbestos is not present in your flooring, below are three ways you can remove it yourself, depending on the subfloor.

Plywood Subfloor

With a plywood subfloor, you have two choices: a) scrape away the linoleum or vinyl and glue or b) just cut out the subfloor and linoleum or vinyl flooring as one piece.

  • To remove old resilient flooring, first cut it into parallel strips about 6 inches wide with a utility knife. Use a hammer to tap a stiff putty knife or brick chisel under the linoleum to break it loose. Pull the linoleum up in strips to reveal the backing or the glue. Once the surface layer is gone, use a paint scraper to remove the glue. You can also use a heat gun to soften the glue as you scrape it away with the paint scraper. Some old linoleum has tar-based adhesive, which can be softened by applying mineral spirits.
  • To remove the linoleum and subfloor together, drill a hole through the floor to determine how thick the plywood is. Set the saw blade to cut just 1/8 inch deeper and cut away a section of flooring on one side of the room. To cut flush against the walls, use a reciprocal saw, but be careful you don’t cut the floor joists. Cut the floor into manageable sections about 3 or 4 feet long as you continue to remove it. When laying down the new subfloor, nail crosspieces between the joists to support adjacent plywood subfloor edges, particularly if the old floor was tongue and groove plywood.

Hardwood Floors

It’s not uncommon to find a perfectly good (or what used to be) hardwood floor under linoleum or vinyl. Peel away enough covering in a corner until you can judge which way the flooring runs. Cut through the vinyl in about 6-inch-wide strips in the same direction the floor runs to minimize any chances of cutting across the grain. Set the utility knife blade just deep enough to get through the linoleum or vinyl. Heat the linoleum with a heat gun and then pry it and the glue up while the glue is still soft. Scrape away as much of the glue as you can while being careful not to gouge the floor. Once you have cleaned the floor as well as possible, sand away any remaining glue and refinish the floor.

If you are having trouble deciding between hardwood and carpet flooring, see how they compare.

Concrete Slab

This is probably the easiest type of subfloor to get linoleum or vinyl off of, but it’s still no picnic. Again, it’s the same process of cutting the flooring into strips, heating it with a heat gun to soften it, and then pulling it off. The remaining glue can be scraped with a floor scraper or soaked overnight with water and dish soap, which helps soften the glue.

As you struggle with your old flooring, just keep thinking good thoughts and reminding yourself that you and the house will both be better for it when you’re finished

DIY Tips For How To Power Wash Siding

It’s not just the inside of a house that gets dirty. Exterior siding can accumulate a lot of dust and grime, even mildew. And because siding is the face we offer the street, even a little dirt shows. Some houses naturally accumulate more dirt than others. If you live along a dusty road or in a new development where lawns are not yet established, you can expect a daily barrage of grit and grime. Textured siding or peeling paint only compounds the problem. When dirt really settles in, the only remedy is a good cleaning with a pressure washer or a scrub brush. We prefer a pressure washer because it’s a lot less work.

While cleaning is the focus here, pressure washers also have long been used in paint prep. Handled correctly, a pressure washer can actually strip away peeling paint. It can also scour the surface chalk from aging paint, making a better bonding surface. Wood siding will need a week to dry, and you’ll still have to do some scraping. Of course, it’s not for every situation, especially when lead-based paints are involved, but it’s often worth considering.

A Word on Pressure Washers

Until recently, pressure washers were almost exclusively commercial machines, and they were priced accordingly. In the past 10 years, however, manufacturers have targeted the homeowner with lightweight, general-purpose washers that are priced more like lawnmowers. Electric models, with 1,200 to 1,300 pounds of pressure, start at about $120. Gasoline models, with at least 1,500 psi, start around $220. From there, it’s three or four quick steps to 3,000 psi and $700. We chose a basic machine, a 4-hp, 1,600-psi gas model made by Campbell Hausfeld, costing $219 (The Campbell Group, 100 Production Dr., Harrison, OH 45030; 800-330-0712). This is the same unit we used to refinish our deck.

When shopping for a pressure washer, the question for most of us is, how much pressure is enough? For around-the-yard chores, like stripping a deck, degreasing equipment, or washing siding, 1,300 to 1,600 psi is plenty. More pressure is certainly useful in some situations, but it’s also more dangerous. All pressure washers can rip through flesh at close range, and more pressure increases the potential hazard. These things may feel like toys, but they’re more like chain saws. Better to go slow. Of course, if you’re going to need a pressure washer only once a year or so, it makes more sense to rent one. Expect to pay $50 to $75 per day for a typical gas-powered, 2,500-psi unit.

Power washing siding is pretty basic, but there are a few general rules to follow. First, avoid spraying any outdoor electrical components unless they’re turned off. Be especially cautious around the electrical service entrance, the lines and conduit feeding the meter. The central air conditioner is another high-voltage shock hazard. Secondly, avoid spraying upward, under siding laps and flashing, and don’t get too close to gutters. Thirdly, angle the spray away from doors, windows, and vents, especially soffit vents. And finally, avoid holding the nozzle so close to the siding that the pressure tears the wood or strips the finish from hardboard siding.

Getting Started

In most cases, you’ll want to soap your siding before washing it. All general-purpose washers have detergent attachments. Electric models usually have internal reservoirs, while gas models generally have siphon tubes that you insert directly into a container of detergent. As the detergent is pulled through the system, it mixes with water to make an approximately 12 percent solution, suitable for most applications. Because detergent needs extended contact to work effectively, it can be applied only when the machine is in its low-pressure mode. High pressure would blast it off as fast as it was blown on. We chose Campbell Hausfeld’s General Purpose Cleaner (No. PW0051), paying $5.99 per gallon. Detergents can pose a problem, however, especially if they contain bleach. Houses are surrounded by grass and landscape plantings, which can be damaged by such chemicals. Root systems can actually survive quite a bit, but foliage is another story. To prevent leaf damage, choose a general-purpose cleaner that does not contain bleach. Then, cover landscape plantings with inexpensive plastic dropcloths. Thoroughly wet any plants you can’t cover with plastic. Of course, if your siding is only a little dusty, it may not need a detergent.

If some of your siding has begun to grow mildew, however, a little bleach is required. Mix one part household bleach with 10 parts water and wipe it on the affected area. Then, rinse it away with a sponge and clean water. Using bleach on siding is tricky, so start with as little as possible, for as short a time as possible.

For a larger mildew problem, you might try Jomax, available in paint stores (Zehrung, Chempro Division, 16416 S.W. 72nd Ave., Portland, OR 97224). This mildewcide concentrate requires you to add bleach to the solution, but it deactivates the bleach after it’s applied. Therefore, Jomax is said to be harmless to plants and paints. One quart, costing $7.50, makes 5 gal. of solution. Spray it on sparingly with a garden sprayer.

With the mildew problem handled, you’re ready to wash the rest of the siding. Begin by connecting a garden hose to the washer’s pump. Then turn the water on full bore. Next, set the detergent container next to the washer and slide the open end of the plastic siphon tube over the brass nipple on the underside of the pump. Feed the filtered end of the tube into the detergent container. Finally, slide the spray nozzle forward on the gun, switching from high to low pressure for the soap application. The nozzle can also be rotated to adjust the width of the pattern in the high-pressure mode.

With the water to the pump turned on, start the gas motor and, within a minute of starting, begin to spray an area of the house with detergent, working from the bottom up. The size of the area will depend on weather conditions, especially high winds. You won’t want the detergent to dry on the siding before you can wash it off, so keep the size of the area manageable. Allow the detergent to work on the siding for at least 2 to 3 minutes. While the solution works on the grime, remove the siphon tube from the pump. Switch the nozzle to high pressure and rinse the soap from the siding, using a wide spray pattern and holding the nozzle about 18 in. away from the siding. Again, work from the bottom up, without actually spraying upward.

Finally, working from the top down, rinse the siding thoroughly. This time, hold the gun about 10 in. from the siding and spray at a downward angle. If you see spots that won’t come clean, try moving the nozzle a little closer to focus the pressure. Watch the siding closely, however. Too much pressure can do real damage. Remember to avoid spraying electrical components directly. Spray carefully around doors and windows, angling the nozzle down and away. Move around the house in this fashion until you’ve finished the job