DIY Home Electrical Repair

If you’ve been having issues with a faulty lighting fixture or electric wall outlet, it may be time for you to take this problem as an opportunity to put on your do-it-yourself hat and take action. You’d be surprised to know that many home electricity problems can be resolved with a little bit of research and an equal amount of elbow grease!

Safety is obviously the primary focus when working on electrical problems in your home, even if the problem seems trivial. Any situation that involves working with live wires is a serious matter and one that should not be taken lightly. This includes repairing or replacing outlets, installing a new ceiling fan or updating your current lighting fixtures.

Larger electrical projects such as installing a home theatre system is something that would typically be handled by a licensed electrician, but replacing a broken fuse in your toaster oven is the perfect opportunity for the DIY homeowner.

TIP 1: Safety – Always unplug whatever you are repairing and if that isn’t an option, turn the power off completely at the main circuit panel.

TIP 2: Parts – Always be sure you are using the correct type of wiring and connectors. A great example of this, and common mistake amongst homeowners, is buying indoor wiring for a project that is outdoors and vice versa. This type of mistake can be extremely hazardous by making your electrical lines and outlets susceptible to moisture and other damage. Finding a cheap electrical fix is great, but you should never compromise the type and integrity of the electrical parts that are needed for your DIY project.

TIP3: Help – Always ask for experienced help If you are unsure whether or not you have the right parts or equipment. Consult with a friend or family member who may know a qualified electrician. This referral could save you the grief of fires and electrical shock as the result of poorly wired outlets and appliances. WHEN IN DOUBT, HIRE A PROFESSIONAL.

Don’t always trust what you read online! Do your research to find products and solutions which fit your budget and ability. This research can include asking at your local hardware shop for advice if you are in doubt about anything.

Hopefully these short DIY home electrical repair tips will help you on basic electrical repair jobs around the house. Whether you’re replacing a doorbell, rewiring an antique lamp or installing a new outlet always be safe, not sorry!

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Caring for your Lawn in Spring

The sight of new grass growing in spring often leads the homeowner to run out and spread fertilizer to help the young blades along. This is actually the opposite of recommended practices for most lawns. The proper time to apply fertilizer is in the fall, when the roots that will sustain the plants through the following summer are actively growing. Even if the fall feeding was missed, any spring feeding should be limited to a light feeding (1/2 pound of actual nitrogen, i.e., 5 pounds of 10-10-10, per 1000 sq. ft.) after the initial flush of growth has subsided, probably sometime in May or early June.

Though spring is the time to apply lime to your grass, this should only be done if the soil deems it necessary. Most lawn grasses grow best at a pH level of 6.0 to 7.0, so it’s good to have your soil’s pH analyzed every two to three years to be sure you are staying in that range. Horticultural experts always say that the soil test result should include recommendations on how much lime to apply on your lawn soil.

Horticultural studies have also proven that seed sowing efforts will have a good chance of getting optimum results during spring as long as your lawn is well watered and cared for with the right amount of fertilizer.  The grass will be stronger and healthier if you can water daily until the plants are established. Water approximately once a week throughout the summer, keeping in mind that the tops of the grass may look great, but the roots are not as long and dense as those of the grass in an established lawn.

Avoid cutting too short when your lawn requires its first cut. Mow to about two inches during the spring, then raise the cutting height another half inch when summer arrives. Mow frequently so that no more than one third of the grass blade is removed at one time.

It is recommended that you apply pre-emergent herbicides between the middle of March and the middle of April to control crabgrass and the emergence of bull worms. Crabgrass generally emerges about the time of dogwood bloom, and the pre-emergent herbicides used to control it will not affect crabgrass that is already up and growing.  March is still a little early for dethatching and actual pesticide application, so after taking care of the few necessary lawn chores for early spring, you can relax and save your energy for summer mowing.

Trees and shrubs surrounding your lawn will also need extra attention. Make sure you apply some amount of fertilizer on surrounding trees and shrubs so they won’t absorb the nutrients meant for your lawn.

These easy-to-follow maintenance tips can make your lawn the envy of your entire neighborhood.

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Economical Stylish Lighting Choices

Do you find your home a little dreary and uninspiring? Or are you just in the mood for a change? If so and you’re on a tight budget, don’t fret. There’s a fast and affordable way to make over your home – just get some cheap lights and set them up to create the perfect ambience for work and relaxation. It’s the fast and affordable way to enhance your lifestyle.

The clever use of lighting can work wonders in your home. Just by clicking a switch, you can create the mood you want.

If you’re building a new home you can plan your lighting system from the ground up. You could install recessed ceiling lights, for example, for a sleek and modern look. Or you might choose to attach wall lights at key positions in the room to provide both task lighting for functional use such as reading, or accent lighting to highlight items such as paintings, tapestries or plants. These lights are surprisingly economical to buy and install but work wonders to make your home that special place to live.

If you live an established residence, or rented accommodation, or just don’t want to indulge in major installation work, you can still use affordable lighting to transform your living environment. Many types of lights can be fitted without the need for major structural work.

You could install track lights on your ceilings to replace your old fluorescent strip, for example. Track lights are spot lights fixed on a track. Each spot light can be directed to a particular part of your room as needed. Thus one set of track lights could function as accent and ambient lighting in your living room. This is a highly economical way to illuminate your home.

Then again, you could replace old, worn out fixtures with modern stylish ones. Adding wall lights is a straightforward task. These sconces, as they’re known, are easy to fix if you have the electrical supply in place. An even easier method is using table and floor lights to create warm areas of illumination that also function as task lighting.

Another option for a fast, low-cost makeover is to fit stylish new lamp shades on your table lamps. You’re not limited to traditional white and cream; modern lamp shades come in a wide range of styles and colors to suit every situation.

When it comes to buying cheap lights you also have to consider the type of bulb used. Your main choices are fluorescent, incandescent and LED (light emitting diodes). Fluorescents give off a harsh functional illumination which makes them most suitable for task lighting in rooms such as kitchens. You may be tempted to choose incandescent over LED as they’re cheaper. However, LED lighting runs much cooler, uses less electricity and lasts much longer.

Don’t neglect the outside of your home. You could add some stylish porch lights or wall lights lining the entrance.  These create a great look, make your home safer, and the costs are very reasonable.

You can transform your home from gloomy to groovy and on a shoestring, too. There’s no need to spend for pricey furniture and fittings. Just get some budget lights and you’re set. The best way to check out the range of cheap lights available is to browse the web sites of online lighting dealers. You can find a wide array of lights at bargain prices.

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Tips for Mowing Your Lawn

Cutting your grass isn’t rocket science—or is it?  Well, no.  But you may be damaging your lawn in ways you hadn’t considered.  Consider the following:

 Many people have a preference for a close-shaved lawn.  It does look great, and when the grass is that short, it means it won’t require mowing again for a longer period of time.  But when grass is cut too low, the roots aren’t able to burrow as deep into the soil and tap into the available water.  Allow your grass to get a bit longer and gain a firmer hold.  Not only does this keep it greener, it also reduces weed growth when the grass is thicker; it allows less room for weeds to find nutrient sources.  A slightly longer lawn is a healthier, more vibrant one. 

 When mowing new grass, cut it with the blade at a high setting, then, over successive cuts, reduce the blade height.  Too drastic a cut can damage fragile, new turf.

 Keep your mower well-maintained for the sake of both the machine and your lawn.  Clean the underside of your mower after every use.  A good hose-down at the end of every day is recommended.

 Do not try to force the mower to cut faster than it can effectively do the job.  Not only will this give your lawn a ragged appearance, but the heavier clippings clog the blades.  Develop a consistent rhythm of pushing the mower forward and then pull it backward in short strokes.  This allows the motor to pick up the revs.

 Of course, it goes without saying that under no circumstances should you ever put your hand in the collection chute to clear blockage while the engine is still running.  The mower should not only be turned off, but a few moments should be allotted for the blade to stop spinning.  It’s also a good idea to remove the spark plug cover.  Fingers—unlike blades of grass-do not grow back.

 These steps may require that a larger block of time be set aside to have your lawn looking its best, but it’s well worth the added effort.

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Cold Weather Concreting

When it’s cold outside, placing, finishing and curing concrete calls for extra care.  In cold weather, concrete sets up more slowly.  Worst of all, there’s a risk that the fresh concrete will freeze—and if it does, the damage done by ice formation can reduce its final compressive strength by as much as 50 percent.

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When the water in fresh concrete freezes, the ice takes up more space than water.  Ice crystal growth causes an overall volume expansion of the concrete.  This expansion weakens the concrete by creating void spaces and disrupting the bond between the cement paste and the aggregate.  Later, when the concrete thaws, voids left by melting ice makes the concrete porous and can cut concrete’s 28-day compressive strength in half.

Before you place concrete in cold weather, you need to make sure your forms and subgrade are ready.  Otherwise, the subgrade will likely thaw unevenly, resulting in uneven settlement.  Thaw the subgrade out first.

Never place concrete on snow and ice.  Clear the ice and snow from both forms and subgrade before you pour.  The subgrade should be at least 35 degrees F before you place the concrete.

Place concrete in the late afternoon, after the sun has heated the subgrade and forms.

If your concrete freezes, it can be disastrous—the strength loss may be unacceptable, and tearing out concrete and doing it over is not light work.

In addition to thawing the substrate and pouring the concrete at the right temperature, in cold weather it’s important to protect fresh concrete from freezing.  The most common and easiest way to protect it is by insulating.  During the first three days after placement, the chemical reaction between cement and water generates heat, called the “heat of hydration.”  If you can keep that heat in, you often won’t need to supply extra heat.

Six inches of straw held in place with tarps or polyethylene sheeting will keep heat from escaping.  But straw has disadvantages:  It’s bulky, it’s flammable, and if it gets wet, it loses its insulating value.  For light construction, insulating or curing blankets are the most practical way to maintain heat and moisture during cold weather.

Your goal should be to keep the concrete from freezing until it reaches a strength of 500 psi and most of the water is gone.  This takes longer if the concrete gets cold.  To be on the safe side, protect all fresh concrete from freezing for three days.  After that, protect it from rain, snow or any other source of water for a few days before exposing it to freezing temperatures.

Whether you insulate or tent out, do not allow the concrete to cool too fast at the end of the protection period.  Sudden drops in temperature will cause thermal shrinkage cracking.  Remove the protection in a way that lets the concrete cool gradually—no faster than a 50 degree drop in 24 hours.