2012 home improvement

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2012 Home Improvement


  • The Sunbury News




    Get Audited The Green WayUnless you are a licensed home contractor or have done

    a lot of construction or remodeling work, yourhome systems may be a mystery to you. Howexactly does the kitchen sink drain?How much insulation do you have inyour attic? What should you do ifyour electricity goes out? Theaverage homeowner asksthese questions and moreon a regular basis. Withcontinued attention toliving a greenerlifestyle and the ris-ing costs of homeenergy, these ques-tions have focusedmore and more onefficient energy useat home. When youcombine the limitedknowledge of home-owners and the need forenergy savings, its clearthat one way to a greenerlifestyle is a home energyaudit.

    A home energy audit is very sim-ple and, usually, free. Contact your localenergy provider to find out their recommen-dation. Your auditor will set up an appointmentwith you. At that meeting, they will tour your house withyou. Be prepared to show the auditor your attic and the physical systems(water heater, air conditioner and heat system) in your home. Most auditors alsowant a copy of your energy bills, preferably with a years worth of use that theycan track. This will give them information about how and when you use ener-gy so that they can suggest more efficient methods.

    The best audits will provide you with a list of areas in your home that needto be updated or changed to be more efficient. If they dont provide one, ask for

    a list of high-impact items. These are smallchanges, which are going to be the most

    cost effective and offer the earliestreturn on your investment. For

    example, new windows areoften very expensive, but

    you can add insulationto your attic, floorsand walls for muchless cost and get amuch greaterbenefit, help-ing out yourwallet.

    Mostaudits will

    be done visu-ally, but thereare more thor-ough options.Some compa-

    nies will useblower doors,

    which can be used todetect where air is leak-

    ing from around the build-ing. If your house is drafty or

    you are worried about mold andcondensation, this test can show you

    how airtight the building is. Another inno-vative technique is the use of infrared cameras.

    These can detect spots in the house where the air is particularlywarm or cold and can show interior problems not detected visually. Theseinspections, done by professional companies, usually are at a cost to the home-owner.

    An energy audit from a professional is an easy, cheap, efficient way to findout how your home is functioning. In most locations, it will be provided free ofcharge and can save you significant money in the long term.

    Carpenter WantedYou are a do-it-yourselfer. You enjoy

    tackling projects around the house andspend many weekends doing so. Whileyou are skilled in many areas, you mostcertainly are not a carpenter. You can't

    cut a piece of wood straight, much lessmake the cabinets you need to housethe entertainment components in yourfamily room. You need a carpenter.

    Carpenters generally fall into two

    categories: rough or finish. Roughcarpenters specialize in building homes,particularly in framing them andmaking sure everything is level, squareand plumb. Finish carpentersspecialize in the detail work,installing trim, banisters andthe like. Some finishcarpenters specialize inbuilding cabinets andfurniture. They are knownas cabinetmakers. Sinceyou are interested incabinets, you mightwant to look for acabinetmaker or afinish carpenter whohas experience inbuilding cabinets.

    You should treat theprocess for hiring acarpenter just like youwould for any otherprofessional. Ask familyand friends forrecommendations, browsethrough listings in thenewspaper and phone book,and check online. From thesesources, draw up a list ofpotential candidates. Conductphone interviews and find outabout the carpenter's skills,qualifications, availability and fees.Discuss the work you would like tohave done and see if they areinterested.

    The information you gather fromyour phone interviews should help younarrow your list considerably. Thenyou can meet with each candidate faceto face and find out more. Make sure

    you askto

    seea sampleof their work and get a list of references.Check out the references and find outwhat the customer did and did not likeabout the carpenter's work. Discusswith the carpenter again the work youwould like to have done and ask them

    to give you an estimatein writing.

    Once you find acarpenter you like, hirethem and ask them towrite up a contract forthe work. This willensure there are nomisunderstandings.Work out a schedulewith the carpenter andkeep in contact withthem to ensure they meetyour expectations.

    Why not improve the air in yourhouse when you make those


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    Bright Once AgainGot some old tile in your home? Chances are some of the grout has become stained and dirty

    over time, especially if it is white. White grout tends to yellow with age and become stained.Many homeowners choose to replace their old discolored grout, but before you go thatroute, you might want to try the following to see if you can make that grout gleam again.

    Surface stains on grout can often be removed with a simple piece of sandpaper. Fold itin half and rub along the stain. If that doesn't do the trick, try using a pencil eraser.

    If sandpaper and a pencil eraser don't work, you may want to use good old bleach andwater. Mix one part bleach to two parts water in a spray bottle and apply to the stainedgrout. Let it set for a minute or two and then don a pair of rubber gloves and scrub thestain with an old toothbrush.

    If the bleach solution doesn't work, you may have to go shopping for grout cleaner. Makesure you open all of the doors and windows for good ventilation and read and follow themanufacturer's instructions carefully.

    If, after trying all of these methods, the grout still looks discolored, you may have to resort tocovering up the stains with grout paint. Keep in mind, however, that this will not fix the problempermanently. Over time, the paint will wear off and you will have to reapply it.

    For a permanent fix, remove the grout and install new. Make sure you seal the new grout every couple of years to prevent stains from setting into it.

    New Roof NeededWhen you bought your home

    some years ago, you gave littlethought to the roof. It was in

    good condition, which theinspector confirmed, and thatwas the last time you gave itany thought until now.Time has taken its toll onyour roof, and leaks havestarted to occur. You couldpatch it, but the bestcourse of action would beto get a new roof.

    Depending uponwhere you live and thestyle of your house, yourold roof could be made of

    various materials. Asphalt isthe most common and can be

    found on roofs a