Friday, October 24, 2014

Preventing Mildew Saves Removing It

Preventing Mildew

Mildew that has developed in your home is easy to remove. All you have to do is mix 1 cup of powdered laundry detergent (less if concentrated) and 1 quart of liquid bleach with 3 quarts of warm water. And, in minutes – scrubbing with a bristle brush makes the mildew disappear. Although this is a reasonably mild solution that can be used for most painted surfaces, rubber gloves and eye protection should be used.

Problem is, the mildew isn’t the real problem. Mildew is the effect – not the cause. Mildew can’t grow without a food source, and the food source that mildew thrives on is moisture.

Mold and mildew (mold in its early stage) are fungi that happily and quickly grow anywhere there is moisture. They serve an important purpose in our environment by helping to destroy organic materials such as leaves, thereby enriching the soil. But that same attribute can cause a serious health issue for people living in a moldy home: respiratory problems; sinus congestion; eye, nose, or throat irritation; and headaches. Infants, children, pregnant women, elderly individuals, and people with existing respiratory conditions are at a higher risk for these problems. Check for areas in your home where there could be high humidity or water damage, such as a damp basement or crawl space. Mildew and mold can grow on wood products, ceiling tiles, cardboard, wallpaper, carpets, drywall, fabric, plants, foods, and insulation. These growths can begin to develop on a damp surface within 24 and 48 hours and produce spores that travel through the air. They will break down and destroy whatever they're growing on and can cause mild to severe health problems for you and your family.

Mildew spores are in the air – everywhere. They spend all of their time look­ing for moist places to settle, feed and grow.

How to Prevent Mildew

So how do you prevent mildew from growing in the first place?

  1. Simple, reduce or eliminate the food source – cut down on the amount of moisture (usually found in the form of condensation) that is allowed to settle on the walls, floors and ceilings. This may not be as simple for someone who lives in Flori­da as it would be for a family that lives in West Texas. But, given varying degrees of attention eradication is possible even in relatively humid cli­mates.
  2. Improving air circulation inside the home reduces the chance of condensation and makes it hard for mildew to find a place to grow.

But the problem can’t always be found inside the home. Sometimes the culprit is damp earth beneath the floor.

The area under a wood-floor home can generate a substantial amount of moisture that mildew can use to feed on. What happens is simple. Natural warmth from the floor of the home emanates downward into the sub area, the warmth vapor­izes the moisture in the damp soil, and the vapors rise into the floor and walls above – creating a new place for mildew to thrive.

It’s best to prevent moisture from getting into the subarea in the first place, but once it’s there it can be dealt with.

If the moisture in the subarea was created by a one-time occurrence then a fan can be used to circulate the air and dry out the earth.

Managing Long-term Moisture Problems

If the dampness is an ongoing problem, then a layer of polyethylene sheeting (use the 6 mil thickness) should be laid on the earth in the subarea. When the heat from the house attacks the moisture in the dirt below, condensation is forced to occur on the underside of the plastic instead of on the underside of the wood floor and walls above.

Installation of the plastic sheeting can provide a decade of protection as long as certain pests (rats, mice, moles, gophers, snakes, etc.) aren’t making a home there. But that’s another article.

Anyhow, it’s important that the layer of plastic be tape-sealed at all joints, at all points where it adjoins the foundation walls and where it surrounds foundation piers. Taping serves two functions: it helps to hold the plastic sheeting in place and prevents moisture vapors from seeping through. Two-inch duct tape is best.

And for assistance with all of your home repair needs, Pro-Fix Home Repair stands ready to help.  Give us a call at 770-575-2533.
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Friday, September 19, 2014

How to choose a Toilet - The Basics

Whatever you call it, the toilet is one of the most important items in your house. While the color and cost matter, how much water it uses and how well it flushes matter more. A good one conserves water and generates enough power to clean the bowl in a single flush. (A bad one can be a 20-year pain in the butt.) This article will help you choose a high-performance dunny that will fit your bathroom, budget and backside.
A new generation of low-flow models
Since 1994, low-flow toilets that use 1.6 gallons per flush (gpf) or less have been the federal standard. The first generation of low-flow toilets sucked—or rather, they didn't. That's mostly because manufacturers tweaked a few things to reduce the amount of water used but didn't change the basic design. You had to flush the darn thing twice (so much for water savings!). But 15 years later, more of these toilets actually work. Manufacturers have made significant design improvements such as larger trap-ways to prevent clogging and larger flush valves that allow a more powerful rush of water to enter the bowl. The following tips will make choosing a new toilet a lot easier.
Don't pinch pennies
You can get a “contractor special” for less than $75. But everything from the working parts to the quality of the glazing will likely be low quality. And don't expect a powerful flush from a cheap toilet. You're going to use your toilet every day for years, so get a good one. Plan to spend $100 to $500 for a gravity toilet and $225 to $600 for a pressure-assist model.
Shop plumbing supply houses and bathroom showrooms
Home centers offer some but not all of the top-ranked toilets. For the widest selections in makes and models, visit bathroom showrooms and check online retailers.
Unique features can cost you later
Custom seats and unusual flush mechanisms add a cool factor, but they'll cost you time, money and frustration if they ever need replacing. A replacement custom seat, for example, costs more than $100 (if you can even find one years later).
Solve a sweating tank problem
If a sweating, dripping toilet tank has been a problem with your current can, choose a pressure-assist model. Since the water is held inside an inner tank, the outer tank won't sweat. Or if you prefer a gravity toilet, order one with factory-installed tank insulation for an additional $50 to $100 (depending on the model).
A good flusher
A good flusher
Figure A: Anatomy of a Good Flusher
A toilet's flushing performance is what matters most. To find a top performer, shop with these features in mind.

Tip 1: Compare flush ratings online

A good flusher
1 of 1

A good flusher

Kohler Cimarron Comfort Height elongated 1.6 gpf, model K-3589; at home centers and online retailers. Photo courtesy of Kohler
Since you're probably going to live with your toilet for 10 years or more, it's worth doing 10 minutes of research before you buy. Compare independent test results of the “flushing performance” across manufacturers and specific toilet models by typing “toilet testing 2010” into a search engine.
For more toilet reviews, visit and Top-ranked toilets include specific models of Home Depot's Glacier Bay; Kohler's Wellworth and Cimarron; American Standard's Cadet 3 FloWise; and Gerber's UltraFlush.

Tip 2: Check for rebates on high-efficiency models

American Standard Cadet toilet
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American Standard Cadet toilet

American Standard Compact Cadet 1.28 gpf, model 2403; at home centers and online retailers. Photo courtesy of American Standard
A toilet accounts for a third of your household water use. High-efficiency toilets (HET) that use 1.28 gallons or less earn the EPA's WaterSense label. These can save 4,000 gallons of water per person annually, and some water utilities offer rebates if you install one (check with yours). However, check independent test results before you buy (see the Web sites in Tip 1 above). Our plumbers report more staining and clogging problems with some high-efficiency models.

Tip 3: Get a pressure-assist toilet if a clean bowl using less water is a top priority

A pressure-assist toilet
1 of 1

A pressure-assist toilet

Gerber Ultra Flush pressure-assist 1.6 gpf, model 21-302; at plumbing showrooms and online retailers.
According to the plumbers we spoke with, pressure-assist toilets are more water-efficient flushers than gravity toilets. They have a separate tank that holds water under pressure, which releases with great velocity and removes waste thoroughly when you flush. They're also pricier ($100 plus) and a lot noisier than gravity types. (See our field editor comments below.) Finding parts and making repairs can also be more of a headache with pressure-assist toilets.
For more info on gravity and pressure-assist toilets, type “toilet performance” in the search box above.

Tip 4: Make cleaning easier

A wall-hung toilet
1 of 1

A wall-hung toilet

IMAGE DESCRIPTION (the cutline) Toto Aquia wall-hung high-efficiency dual-flush 1.6 and 0.8 gpf; at plumbing showrooms and online retailers. Photo courtesy of Toto
One-piece toilets are easier to clean (fewer nooks and crannies), but they're also more expensive and can be harder to install than a two-piece unit (they're a lot heavier than a separate bowl and tank). If you're feeling flush and want truly easy cleaning, consider a wall-mounted toilet.
Tips From Our Field Editors
Our field editors from across the country share their insights and experience with new toilets.
“Ho. Lee. Cow. We HATE our toilet. It claims the ability to flush 24 golf balls. Seriously. Maybe it could do 24 golf balls one at a time over a two-week period with a string pulling them down.”
-- Murph Krajewski
Beware of Pressure-Assist Noise
“Our builder installed the LOUDEST toilets in the world. When someone flushes, I have to pause the TV so I don't miss any dialogue. I installed a gravity toilet in my basement, and when our newborn is napping, I make everyone go there to potty!”
-- Jason Hirsbrunner
“My pressure-assist toilet flushes extremely well, but it's very loud. It sounds like it's flushing the whole bathroom down with it.”
-- Tom Rohlf
Beware of Nonstandard Parts
“We got an “uber-cool” toilet and I wish we hadn't. The seat is custom, so we'll have to spend $115 to replace it someday, and the innards aren't normal, so when things eventually wear out, we'll be rigging it with odds and ends to make it work.”
-- Kristin Green
Colored Toilets make a House Harder to Sell
“Most people can compromise when it comes to a low vs. high, round vs. elongated toilet, but color is almost always nontransferable from one owner to another! Avoid designer color toilets like the plague.”
-- Joseph Papay, Craftsman & Design Services
Cushioned Seats Don't Age Gracefully
“The first one didn't fit, the next one seemed OK until it cracked and pinched your leg when you sat on it, and the last one made a humorous sound when you sat down. No more cushioned seats!”
-- Bruce Dexter
Add A Tush of Class and Get a Slow-Close, Removable Seat
“We really like the slow-drop seats with the quick disconnect feature for easy cleaning. With two little ones, it saves slamming seats in the middle of the night and makes cleaning a snap.”
--Jack Bauer

Tip 5: Consider a taller throne for comfort

A taller toilet
1 of 1

A taller toilet

Gerber Avalanche high-efficiency 1.28 gpf, model 21-824, 17-in. ErgoHeight; at plumbing showrooms and online retailers. Photo courtesy of Gerber
Toilets that comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act have higher bowl heights of 17 in. or 19 in. vs. the standard 15 in. A higher bowl can be more comfortable for taller and older people and easier on backs and knees. But it can be harder for kids and shorter folks to use, and it costs $50 to $100 more. If you're not sure, sit on the toilet in the store. It feels silly, but you'll get what you want.

Tip 6: Measure the rough-in before you buy

Measure the rough-in
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Measure the rough-in

The rough-in is the distance from the center of the toilet flange (the hold-down bolts) to the wall. Buy a toilet that fits the rough-in distance so you don't have the difficult job of moving the flange.
The distance from the wall to the middle of the flange bolts that hold down the toilet will narrow your toilet choices. Twelve inches is standard, but 10-in. and 14-in. models are available. Unless you're significantly remodeling, make installation easier by choosing a toilet with the same rough-in as your existing toilet. Make sure to account for the thickness of your baseboard.
For how-to tips on replacing a toilet, type “replace a toilet” in the search box above.

Tip 7: Beware of bigger bowls

Elongated bowls are 2 in. longer and more comfortable for many people. But before you upgrade from a standard round bowl, take some measurements. We've heard a lot of stories about doors and drawers that couldn't be opened after an elongated bowl was installed.

Tip 8: Save water with a dual-flush toilet

A dual-flush toilet
1 of 1

A dual-flush toilet

American Standard H2Option Siphonic Dual Flush Elongated 1.6 or 1.0 gpf, model 2887- 216; at home centers and online retailers Photo courtesy of American Standard
These have a .8-gpf button for liquids and a 1.6-gpf button for solids and use about 25 percent less water than a regular 1.6-gpf toilet. Dual-flush toilets are available in both gravity and pressure-assist models. They're pricier than other types (an additional $150 to $300 depending on the model) and they come in fewer color and style options. Also, the flush button or handle can be awkward to push on some models.

A special thanks to "The Family Handyman" for this article.
And for assistance with all of your Home Repair needs, Pro-Fix Home Repair stands ready to help.  Give us a call at 770-575-2533.
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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

How Does an Electrical Breaker Work?

How Does an Electrical Breaker Work?
You can call it a "Breaker Box", a "Service Panel", or "The Electrical Box", but whatever you call it, what it does and how it works is probably a bit of a mystery.

So here we go with a bit of information intended for the homeowner, as a homeowner, not an electrician

Before you read any further....DO NOT OPEN YOUR SERVICE PANEL or attempt to mess with your electrical system!!
1. What does the darn thing do?
Your Service Panel (that is what's is really called) is THE safety device for the electricity you use in your home. It is also the dividing up point for the electrical power coming into your house from your electric company. The amount of electricity coming into your home is really powerful, and actually comes with 2 large wires (also called conductors) that each have 120 volts of AC power. These are first attached to a Main breaker which separates them and passes the power thru the breakers on one side of the service panel and the other to the breakers on the other side of the panel.

2. Safety? How does it do that?Electrician
I'm so glad you asked. Electricity, for anyone who has touched it can tell you, will hurt. So that is why the Service Panel is so important. Inside the panel are several features you may not know about. First and foremost are what is called the ground and neutral buss bars. Without these your electricity wouldn't work. Like dancing, it takes two to Tango. Well in this case a hot conductor and a neutral conductor. The ground wire is the safety part of this. Just in case something goes wrong with an appliance or other electrical gadget in your house, the ground wire is where the electricity goes to safely discharge.

3. So just how does the breaker work?
A breaker in your service panel actually works by sensing heat build-up. Look at it this way, any incandescent light buld in your house is actually a heater. It operates by passing electricity thru the wire in the bulb, which in turn gets hot. It gets so hot that it also as a byproduct produces light. Well the breakers in your service panel are kind of like that, except they are set to shut down when the heat reaches a specific point.

4. So back to the dividing up point...
After the electricity passes thru the main breaker it then gets to pass thru the different breakers. Each breaker is matched up with either certain sections of your house or specific appliances, like your stove or refrigerator. It is important to have the correct size breaker along with the correct size wire (conductor) so that the safety feature of the breaker isn't compromised. If you just change out the existing breaker to a larger one then your wire may overheat before the breaker trips. Yep, this is one way to burn a house down.

5. Don't just keep resetting a breaker! 
When a breaker trips it is trying to tell you something. It's telling you SOMETHING IS WRONG! In houses built a few years ago the code electricians used to wire your house and do it safely wasn't as strict as it is today. In the 70's and 80's no one saw 1500 watt hair dryers coming, 15 amp vacuum cleaners, or entertainment centers that rival CNN. So putting 2 or 3 bathrooms on one circuit breaker wasn't unheard of. The problem is 2 bathrooms with a hair dryer going in both will tend to trip the breaker. Easy solution is reset the breaker and only one person gets to fix their hair at a time. If however you have a breaker that trips for no reason that you know of, it's telling you DANGER, DANGER. Have a properly trained person look into what is wrong as soon as you can.

An article by Steve Keel with a special thanks going out to Michael Turkington at Chattahoochee Technical College for passing along the knowledge that made this article possible.

And for assistance with all of your home repair needs, Pro-Fix Home Repair stands ready to help.  Give us a call at 770-575-2533.
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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

5 Tricks to Unlock Your Kitchen's Hidden Potential

5 Tricks to Unlock Your Kitchen's Hidden Potential
No two kitchens are created equal. Some are used every night, while others are only used on special occasions. Some are small. Some have islands. And some kitchens are the pride and joy of the homeowner. All kitchens have one thing in common, though: They have hidden potential!
Take a page out of the pros’ book and try these tricks. Not only will they make you a better cook (maybe… no promises), some of them will save you money, too!
Unlock your kitchen’s hidden potential with these five tips:

1. The Fridge Trick

If your refrigerator’s coils are along the back of the unit, scoot your fridge forward two inches. Most people ram their fridge as close to the wall as possible to eke out some extra floor space, but those extra inches aren’t worth it. By giving your refrigerator coils some breathing room, you’ll reduce your fridge’s energy usage by as much as 40 percent!

2. The Pots and Pans Trick

Place a dryer sheet in the bottom of the pot or pan, fill it with warm water and leave it overnight. Come morning, that apocalyptic magma stuff that was stuck to the bottom will come right off. Just rinse everything with dish soap to remove any remaining residue from the dryer sheet.

3. The Stovetop Trick

If you get distracted while you’re prepping water for your pasta, it can boil over pretty fast. To avoid that, try this: Place a long wooden spoon across the top of the pot. The spoon will pop the rising water bubbles and absorb some of the heat.

4. The Cutting Board Trick

Even the most accomplished chefs can have an accident if their cutting board goes
mobile while they’re chopping. Do your fingers a favor – use this trick to anchor your board: Wrap a rubber band around each end. That’s it! Your cutting board will stay in place.

5. The Freezer Trick

The average temperature of a freezer is 0-5 degrees F! So while it’s always nice to have ice water in the heat of summer, think about how hard your freezer works to make it. Use this trick to lighten the load: Freeze a few 1-gallon jugs of water and leave them in your freezer. This makes it easier for your freezer to keep a consistently low temperature, which saves energy and increases your fridge’s longevity!

A special thanks goes out to Jessica at for this article.
And for assistance with all of your home repair needs, Pro-Fix Home Repair stands ready to help.  Give us a call at 770-575-2533.
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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Identify Home Energy Hogs

Why Do This?

You can save up to 10 percent on your energy bill by targeting your energy hogs and unplugging them when you aren't using them regularly! While refrigerators and air conditioners consume the most energy, there are many small appliances that consume large amounts of unnecessary energy, too. These ‘vampire’ products cannot be turned off without being unplugged, and draw power 24 hours a day.
How long should this take? About 15 minutes.

How To:

  1. If you want to know what current energy hogs you’re using, buy a low-cost wattmeter to measure the devices in your home. Home Depot has one for about $20
  2. Identify the vampire appliances in your house. If you don't use the following appliances regularly, unplug them!
  3. Computers. Whether you have a desktop or a laptop (or both), your computer is a Dracula-level energy vampire. By turning your computer off instead of letting it idle or sleep, you can reduce its energy usage by as much as 250 percent.
  4. Toaster. Once your crispy toast is on your plate, there’s no need to leave your toaster on. Unplug it until it’s time for your next snack.
  5. Cell phones. Even when your phone is plugged-in and fully charged, it’s sapping energy from your outlet. Make a point to unplug your cell phone once the battery is full. Same goes for the charger.
  6. DVR and Cable Box. Even when your cable setup isn’t recording and is turned off by remote control it uses a whopping 43.46 watts an hour. When you’re going to sleep or leaving the house for a while, unplug your setup completely.
  7. Coffee machine. You may take your cup of java to go in the morning, but your coffee machine hangs out all day draining power. Unplug it once you have your brew, or go classy and switch to a French press!
  8. Televisions and video game systems. These will chip away at your bank account every minute the are plugged in. Standby mode is expensive!
  9. To make unplugging appliances and other electrical devices easier, consider using a switchable power strip to easily unplug a cluster of cords all at once. If there are energy hogs you aren't use regularly, plug them into the power strip and get in the habit of switching it off. You can pick one up at Home Depot for less than $4.00
A special thanks goes out to for this article.
And for assistance with all of your home repair needs, Pro-Fix Home Repair stands ready to help. 
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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

A Crash Course in Hiring an Exterminator

It doesn’t matter if it’s insects or rodents: pest invasions are never fun. Unwanted critters can wreak havoc on your home, spread diseases and give you a serious case of the shivers. If you wind up with a big pest problem, it’s important to call an exterminator rather than ignoring the issue or trying to deal with it yourself. A professional will be able to safely and fully restore your home to its former pest-free glory.
But choosing an exterminator can be intimidating. What traits should you look for? Are you getting a fair price? Can they really and truly get those racoons out of your basement? It’s important to be informed, because pest control can be expensive. Here’s what you need to know when hiring an exterminator:
1. Ask for credentials. Don’t be shy – you have the right to see the exterminator’s license! Before you hire, ask how their technicians are trained and what certifications they had to receive before being hired.
2. Check their history. Do some research to find out how long the exterminator has been in business. If a company has been serving your community for years, chances are they’re a trustworthy organization. Another great way to find a reputable company is by asking neighbors and friends who they used in the past (and whether or not they were satisfied). You can also use sites like Yelp for recommendations.
3. Get an estimate. Depending on the pest, different strategies for removal (i.e. chemical spray vs. setting traps) can vary widely in price. Make sure you get an estimate for each strategy, and then weigh the costs and benefits. For larger projects (like termites), it’s a good idea to get estimates from multiple companies so that you can choose who is best to tackle your problem. Note: Most professional exterminators should offer you some sort of guarantee for the pest removal – be wary if they don’t!
4. Demand thoroughness. A professional exterminator should inspect your home, confirm the specific pest problem and then present you with several possible solutions. Ask them to explain the pros and cons of each extermination method. Note: An exterminator who doesn’t seem very knowledgeable is a red flag! They should be able to explain the pest’s habits, why the invasion may have happened in the first place and how each extermination method will affect you and your home.

A special thanks goes out to for this article.
And for assistance with all of your home repair needs, Pro-Fix Home Repair stands ready to help.  Contact them by calling 770-575-2533.
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Monday, June 2, 2014

Never Run Out of Hot Water Again

Never Run Out of Hot Water Again

Chalk it up to first world problems if you want, but a cold shower can throw a serious wrench in your morning routine. To make matters worse, Murphy’s Law and Plumbing 101 both dictate that the time you rely on hot water the most – when guests are visiting – is when it’s most likely to go frigid.
Hot Water
Whether your water heater is powered by gas or electricity, if it has a tank, it will run cold if it’s overused. But that doesn’t mean you need to resign yourself to an icy-shower fate! With a little bit of planning, it is possible to prevent cold showers. Here’s how:

Know Your Limits

Take a look at the capacity of your water heater. Tank heaters will generally only deliver 2/3 of their capacity as hot water (this is because cold water enters the tank and dilutes it). So, a fully heated, 50-gallon tank will deliver roughly 33 gallons of hot water at any given time. The average shower uses 2 gallons of water per minute, so that same 50-gallon tank is good for a little less than 17 minutes of hot water. Tip: As a general rule of thumb, you should aim for a tank capacity of 10-15 gallons per adult in your house.

Know the Refill Time

If, when calculating your average shower time, the numbers come up shorter than you’d like, you don’t need to go shopping for a bigger water heater just yet. A 50-gallon water tank will require about 20 minutes to refill and another 20 minutes to heat (call it 60 minutes to be safe). So if Uncle Bob drains all of your hot water, plan on waiting an hour before taking your turn.

Separate Shower Times

If water-heater math and waiting to shower isn’t your style, simply dividing showers between a.m. and p.m. slots will help ensure everyone stays warm. This can require a little planning ahead if you have a full household, but it’s probably the simplest solution. Tip: Use a paint chip calendar to keep track of your schedule.

Check for Other Issues

If you try all of these things but are still plagued with icy cold interruptions, there may be a problem with your water heater. Some red flags to look for include:
  • A rotten egg smell with gas-powered water heaters can indicate a faulty aluminum rod (this smell can also indicate a gas leak!).
  • Uneven pressure or spurts of water could mean there’s clogging in your water heater.
  • Popping or cracking sounds coming from your water heater are signs of sediment buildup.
  • Puddles or mold surrounding your water heater mean there’s probably a leak.
If you discover any of these issues, the best thing to do is contact a qualified professional to come properly diagnose and solve the problem.
A special thanks goes out to for this article.
And for assistance with all of your home repair needs, Pro-Fix Home Repair stands ready to help.  Contact them by calling 770-575-2533.
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Friday, March 28, 2014

HVAC Air Duct Cleaning: Necessary or Not?

A popular HVAC "maintenance" item that seems to get a lot of attention is that of duct cleaning. It seems like a logical maintenance activity but cleaning the air ducts in your home’s HVAC system may not be as good an idea as it intuitively seems.

Let's explore some of the issues.
Do ducts get dusty? Yes.
Is that normal? Yes.
Should you regularly clean your ductwork? No.

Unlike dryer duct cleaning which should be regularly checked and cleaned, no independent objective organization recommends HVAC duct cleaning as an essential part of routine HVAC system maintenance.
In fact the Environmental Protection Agency states the “EPA does not recommend that air ducts be cleaned except on an as-needed basis because of the continuing uncertainty about the benefits of duct cleaning under most circumstances.”
It also states…“Duct cleaning has never been shown to actually prevent health problems. Neither do studies conclusively demonstrate that particle (e.g., dust) levels in homes increase because of dirty air ducts.  This is because much of the dirt in air ducts adheres to duct surfaces and does not necessarily enter the living space.”

Now I’m not saying duct cleaning is a bad idea, just that it is not necessarily good or even, well, necessary in most cases. In this link I'll show you a picture of the interior of ductwork from my home built in 1937. The duct has never been cleaned. See what you think.

Properly performed, duct cleaning can be useful in limited situations such as if the ducts are filthy or infested with mice or other vermin, or if you see evidence of significant visible mold growth in the ducts or on the mechanical components of the HVAC system that come in contact with air. But cleaning normally dusty ducts provides no real value.

Frightening “before” and “after” duct photos may make great discount coupon photos but chances are rare that your ducts are in bad shape. If your ducts are seriously filthy enough to require it to be cleaned, then you should clean the entire HVAC system (more on that later), not just the ducts themselves.

Please understand that duct cleaning uses specialized tools to agitate and dislodge dirt in the ducts to make the dirt and other contaminants increasingly loose and airborne before they are vacuumed out. Sometimes the ducts are cut for tool access and needs to be carefully resealed. Then a powerful vacuum system is used to remove the loosened dirt and contaminants. If this is not done properly you can do more harm than good.
For example, if the vacuum hose / containment system is not sealed tightly and exhausting contaminants to the outside, or if a HEPA filtration system is not used in an interior vacuum system, you can wind up releasing dirt and contaminants into your home’s interior. As part of the duct cleaning process, your ducts may have service holes cut into it for tool or vacuum hose access that may not be properly sealed after use, or HVAC system components could be taken apart and damaged or not reinstalled properly, and so on.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Kitchen Update

DIY – Update Your Kitchen With a New Tile Backsplash!

If you want to give your kitchen a facelift, consider replacing or adding a new tile backsplash. This can give your kitchen a bright modern appearance without a lot of effort. The nice thing about adding a new backsplash is that it is not very hard to do. If your existing backsplash is painted drywall, it’s quite straightforward. Even if you have an old tile backsplash, it is still not difficult – just messier in the beginning.
Planning the Project
If your existing backsplash is painted drywall, you can install your new tiles right over the top. Just sand the area to rough up the surface and get ready to install. If you have an existing tile backsplash, your best bet is to remove it totally. This will involve actually cutting the existing backer (usually drywall) and getting rid of both it and the attached tiles. For the best results consult with a professional to determine if you need to replace the drywall before installing the new tile. Pro-Fix Home Repair can help answer all of your questions.
Determine the length of your backsplash, and then measure the distance from the top of the counter to the bottom of the wall cabinet to calculate the area you’ll need to cover with your tiles (length x width = area). Now that you know how much space you have, figure out your tile pattern. Use graph paper and draw a scale outline. The most common tiles used for backsplashes are 4 x 4, 6 x 6 or 3 x 4 subway tiles. You could also use 1 x 1 tiles attached to a back mesh if you like the appearance better–the choice is yours.  Find the one that best fits your style. Just be sure that the tiles are glazed when you get them; this will help prevent stains, moisture and grease from ruining your tile. When you calculate your tile quantities, don’t forget to add about 10 percent for cutting and waste.
Installing the Backsplash
  1. Remove the stove and range hood and anything else that will be in your way when you are working on the backsplash. Shut off the power to any outlets or switches and remove the cover plates.
  2. If your tiles are going to be running over any gaps (like where the range will be), install a temporary ledger board along the base of your tile line to help hold them in place during installation.
  3. Mark the visual focal point of your layout and use a level to draw a starting line through it. You’ll use this to line up your tiles vertically. Now, lay out your tiles on the countertop or the kitchen floor so you can follow the pattern.
  4. Starting at the center, begin the bottom row by applying tile mastic (a ready to use tile adhesive) or thinset mortar to a small section of the wall using a grooved trowel. Put the edge of the first tile on the vertical line leaving a gap of about 1/8″ on the bottom – this leaves space for a bead of caulk later in the process. Press and wiggle the first tile into place, then put in a temporary 1/8″ spacer (vertically for easy removal when the mastic dries).
  5. Install the second tile using the same process. Continue installing tiles working away from the centerline, wiggling them into place and putting spacers between each. Follow your pattern and install any decorative/highlight tiles as part of the field.
  6. When you get to a place where you need to cut or trim a tile (under a countertop, end of a row, around an electrical outlet), cut the tile as part of the installation – don’t leave an opening and plan to come back.

Cutting a Tile
Cutting tile can be a hard task; the easiest way to cut a tile is using a tool called a scoring cutter. Using one is a two-step process – mark the tile where you want to cut it, then place the tile in the tool and score a mark in the tile surface. Then, using a sharp motion of the tool handle, the cutter will break the tile along the scored line.
Cutting openings for an electrical outlet can be more challenging. Depending on where an electrical outlet fits into your pattern, you may be need to cut two tiles using the scoring cutter, and then use tile nippers to cut out the opening and put them on each side of the outlet.
After the tiles are installed and the mastic has been allowed to set up overnight, it’s time to grout. Use a sandless grout (to avoid scratching the tile surface) and mix it according to manufacturer’s directions. Apply the grout using a rubber float. Push it well down into the gaps between the tiles, then holding the float at a 45-degree angle remove the excess.
Finishing Up
Allow the grout to set up for about an hour and then clean off the hazy surface on the tiles. Use wet sponges, rinsing them often in clean water to wipe away the film. Buff the tiles with a clean dry cloth to bring out their natural beauty. You will likely need to install box extenders to your electrical outlets before you can reattach the cover plates.  Finally, apply a bead of tub and tile caulk (the same color as the grout) all along the bottom seam where the backsplash meets the countertop.
Following the steps above will help you install a new backsplash into your kitchen. Make sure you pay attention to details and follow each step, but if you happen to come across a problem, the professional craftsmen at Pro-Fix Home Repair can finish the project for you, or help you along the way. 
And for assistance with all of your home’s repair and inprovement needs, Pro-Fix Home Repair stands ready to help.  Contact them by calling 770-575-2533.
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Monday, February 24, 2014

Choosing Non-Toxic Paints is a Good Choice

Home Improvement Hints

Benefits of Choosing Non-Toxic Paints

The benefits of non-toxic paints are found in a quick look at what is in “traditional” paints.
Many commercial paints contain up to 10,000 chemicals, over 300 of which are known toxins; 150 of those are known to cause cancer.
There is a dangerous subcategory of these chemicals called volatile organic compounds (VOC) that can leech out of paint for years. VOCs have been shown to cause breathing problems, headaches, eye irritation and nausea.  Some have even been linked to higher incidents of cancer.
VOCs are unstable carbon-based compounds that vaporize into the air easily. This process can last for years. Most people don’t realize it, but they may be surrounded by the very chemicals that are making them sick.
Fortunately, there are alternatives to paints with VOCs. These paints are identified as low-VOC or no-VOC paints. In fact, most major paint manufacturers have begun making paints that have very little or no harmful chemicals.
Finding these types of paints is as easy as asking your paint retailer, or checking labels closely. There are several companies that now have a green seal on their paints. These seals are designed to tell consumers that this is a healthier paint than the traditional types. In addition to paint, there are also natural, oil-based wood finishes that can be used to stain and seal wood without bringing toxins into the home.
In Europe, the move toward low or no VOC paints has been going on for some time. In the United States, many companies have begun selling “nursery” paints. These are paints that have few VOCs, specifically designed for childrens’ rooms.
Because all of these paints are water-based, they clean up more easily and are better for the environment. There is little or no odor while painting and no odor afterward.
There are several companies that specialize in only healthier paint alternatives.  Many produce paints made from natural ingredients that don’t contain any VOCs and are entirely non-toxic. In fact, many of them also have essential oils in them that give them a pleasant scent.
Some of the larger paints companies offer zero-VOC paints. A paint that has less than 5 grams per liter of VOCs can be called zero-VOC. While these paints are not made from natural ingredients, they don’t leech out toxins into the environment. Because these companies’ products are easy to find, you can simply visit your paint retailer and ask them for paints in the zero-VOC lines.
Using healthier paints is easy. All you have to do is take the extra moment to find them. You, your family and the planet will be a healthier for it.
And for assistance with all of your home’s painting needs, Pro-Fix Home Repair stands ready to help.  Contact them by calling 770-575-2533.
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Monday, January 6, 2014

Selecting the Right Tile

Homeowner How To: Selecting Tile for your Renovation

Selecting the right tile means the difference between mediocre and brilliant design. What is the difference between ceramic, glazed and porcelain tile? When and where ...
Porcelain, ceramic, natural stone, glass, metal, mosaics, there are so many choices to make when you are remodeling your home that involve selecting tile. Tile can be used as flooring in a kitchen, foyer, laundry area, mudroom and bathroom, as well as many outdoor areas. Selecting the right tile means the difference between mediocre and brilliant design. What is the difference between ceramic, glazed and porcelain tile? When and where should glass and natural stone tiles be used?

Here is the inside scoop on selecting tile for your home...

How tile is made: Tile is made by either pouring the base materials into a mold, and then exposing those to high heat ovens, or shaping and cutting stone. It can be hand painted, hand poured, glazed with a shiny coating like you may have done in a ceramics class, or it can be made of the same color material all the way through. Small pieces of ceramic, porcelain, stone, tile and glass can be made into intricate mosaics by hand or by cut to size by an advanced computer program.  Mosaics can be made of numerous materials including metals, wood, marble, granite, ceramic and porcelain.

Glazed tile: Less expensive than porcelain, glass and natural stone, glazed ceramic tile is the go to product for builders and is used extensively in residential homes as well as commercial buildings. A layer of colored glaze coats a ceramic base below. These versatile, lightweight, durable tiles are great for walls in bathrooms or for tile backsplashes…and generally textured versions of this are used as floor tile. Mix and match with the huge variety of colors and sizes…you can really play with layouts with this product as there are infinite colors and shapes available to choose from. This type of tile can be pretty inexpensive in general. Some glazed tiles are handmade and imported so not all will be inexpensive and some will be more durable than others. Glazed ceramic tile should not be used in high traffic floor areas and the shiny versions are not advisable for floors, especially wet floor areas or areas where frost/freezing may occur. Over time the glaze can start to wear and extreme tempature changes can lead to cracking and damages. If the tile cracks or is chipped you will see the white or terracotta colored ceramic show through from underneath.

Porcelain tile: Porcelain tile can also refer to glazed tile. But most porcelain tiles are not glazed and are generally much more dense than a glazed tile. Through-color porcelain tile means that the color runs throughout the thickness of the tile. Porcelain is a much more dense, durable, heavy and solid material and is much less porous than ceramic. Generally, it can stand up to high and low heat, exterior conditions, wet areas and high traffic floors. Some can even hold up to extreme temperatures and frost without cracking or damage. It is very popular to use this type of tile in main flooring areas, commercial applications, exterior areas, front entryways and kitchens and bathrooms. It can be a little more expensive depending on the color and manufacturer, but it is a long term choice and will look good, even with minor chips, for the long haul. If a piece does get chipped, the color below is the same as the color on top, so it is generally not noticeable.

Glass tile: There are a wide array of glass tile products on the market, from subway tiles to mosaics in numerous colors and styles. These can have a smooth, shiny finish or a matte finish and be a single color with a transparent look, or they can be woven with shiny veins of shimmers and colors to create an exotic  look. Some glass tile can be rather thin in relation to other tiles, so be sure to see how it measures compared to other tile you may be using alongside it. Glass tile is rather delicate, especially before it is installed, so be sure to thoroughly inspect it prior to installing. Once it is properly installed, it is highly durable when installed in appropriate applications. It is popular to use glass tile for kitchen backsplashes, on walls, in bathrooms as an accent or wall tile, or with discretion as a small accent in flooring. Generally, glass tiles are not used as flooring on their own. Glass tile is available in every color of the rainbow and in numerous sizes and styles. It can range in price from reasonable to very expensive.  In a mosaic, it can be paired up with ceramics and marble in varied sizes and is used most often for backsplashes in kitchens or bars.

Marble and Granite tile: Marble or granite tile are simply pieces of natural stone that are cut into a variety of standard tile sizes. These tiles are generally more expensive than ceramic based tiles, and can vary from a larger flooring size to a small subway tile, or can be made into sheets of mosaics. Marble must be sealed regularly to avoid staining and can be slippery when used in wet areas.

Terrazzo tile: Terrazzo is made from a mixture of glass and concrete cut into tile sizes and heated under high temperatures. It is very popular in large commercial projects and as flooring. It is generally very durable and expensive, comes in very large tile sizes and is very heavy.  Glass and concrete can be tinted to almost any color, so terrazzo can be very colorful and is available in numerous tones. Concrete is very porous, so it must be sealed regularly. But even after years of abuse, it can be ground down and resealed to look like new, so all in all, it is a very "green" product.

If you are using tile in a large area of your home it is very important to keep a few boxes of "attic stock" on hand in case a portion of the tile becomes damaged, needs to be changed, or there are renovations that require patching in new areas. The tile you purchased is sold in lots which are identical, but that lot is unique and will never be available or made again. By the time you’ve purchased your tile, the original mold that was used to fabricate your tile is long gone. So always be sure to set aside at least 10% or a minimum of 1-2 boxes of additional tile from the same lot.

If you are unsure about which type of tile, or color tile is right for your project, you may want to consult with a kitchen and bath designer or interior designer. Their knowledge and expertise will assist you in carefully selecting the right product the first time and result in a beautiful space you will enjoy for many years to come. The cost of a designer will save you hours of time in deciding and choosing or possibly from having to do the entire job over if the wrong colors or products are selected.
Smart design will save you time and money! Choose wisely. Hire a professional.

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