attic fan
Home Repair

Man, it is HOT in here! Is it me or the attic fan?

I may be at that “age” where I have my own personal Bikram moments, but lately it’s been HOT HOT HOT in our upstairs. Since I had a task for the hubs to do this week during a heatwave we were having, I picked the HOTTEST day for him to climb up into the attic (yes, no “wife of the year” prize for me)…even though timing wasn’t good, it actually was. Turns out our attic fan motor had burned out after just 3 years since last replacing the housing and the motor. NOW I know one of the contributing factors to being so HOT HOT HOT.

Here are some interesting facts on attic fans. First of all, be sure that the eaves in your attic (that area of overhang below your gutters) is NOT covered over with insulation. The reason is simple: the venting in the eaves is to allow air to flow into the attic and then get pulled through the attic when the attic fan is running. Secondly, your fan should be running on hot days – or else it has seized up and isn’t doing you or your electric bill any good. Attic fans are different from whole house fans. Whole house fans have a large vent located in the ceiling, and on the top floor if you have more than one story. These are hooked up to their own switch in order to be manually turned on/off. An attic fan kicks on automatically when the temperature reaches a certain temperature. A whole house fan requires you to open windows in order for the fan motor to pull the air through the windows and the house up, and out through the attic. CAUTION: if you have gas for heat, water or cooking, BE SURE TO OPEN WINDOWS, else the fan will suck air RIGHT THROUGH THE GAS LINES and that is very dangerous!!!

Replacing the motor of an attic fan is a 30 minute job at the most by any electrician or if you do it yourself. I am not a fan of crawling up and around attics so I did hire out for this job to be done. A typical attic fan is sold with the housing so even if you only need the motor, you will always get the housing unit (I’m talking about from Home Depot). Cost is around $85 for the fan.

In closing, a working attic fan can make a huge difference in keeping the upper level, or if you have a one level home, balanced in temperature. If you haven’t checked lately, stick your head up into the attic on the hottest part of the day and if you don’t see it running or hear it running, it’s time to get it replaced.

It’s nice to be cool again 🙂

email bankruptcy
Digital Organizing

Declaring Email Bankruptcy

This week I declared email bankruptcy! What is that? Well, I have five different email accounts spread across a few platforms. They are all aggregated onto my cell phone, yet I do not manage the emails, except to read them or respond, via my smartphone. And I am on my smartphone all the time.

The problem wasn’t having a lot of unopened emails – the problem was having one email account dating back 7 years, and a few business ventures, that had not been cleaned up. Yes, I had put filters into place to move emails and label them, but that didn’t affect the majority of the incoming email.

Here’s what I did:

1. I have three gmail accounts. To feel a sense of accomplishment, I went to the least used gmail account and selected all the emails and deleted them. I then went to the next gmail account and did the same thing. For the big kahuna gmail account (the one dating back 7 years!), it took me the longest because I sorted the email to show the oldest first. I then selected page display by page display (usually 100 emails at a time) and deleted them. Gmail has some hiccups and there were a few times when NO email was listed at all – if you hit the refresh icon button immediately above the display of emails (not the refresh icon in your URL menu bar), it would then refresh and keep the emails in the correct sort order.

2. I kept emails for the last six months and carefully culled through them, deleting as I went.

3. I repeated the process for my Exchange email.

4. I repeated the process for my web-based email account through GoDaddy. This was the most cumbersome not due to volume but Firefox continually crashed during this email purge process.

The Result: It took me almost 3 hours and I deleted over 31,000 email messages. This included unsubscribing from email lists.

Going Forward: I am now deleting emails as I read them on my smartphone. I have also setup a monthly calendar reminder to review and delete emails.

I challenge you to declare email bankruptcy and clean out those emails! If someone sent you something that they needed your response, they will either send it again or call you about it. If you’re really concerned, then setup an auto responder stating that you have purged your email inbox and if there is an urgent item that you did not respond to, to please resend the email.

home improvement stores
Home Improvement Store

Navigating Hardware / Home Improvement Stores

My hubs likes to say that I’m the happiest when I’m going to a hardware store / home improvement store 🙂  This is a true fact. I can spend hours walking around, looking at products and getting ideas. (I even carry a notebook with me so that I can write down any ideas or products that I see – and the project ideas those products trigger!)  Okay, so I’m probably not the norm, but growing up,  my father took me into Fairfax Hardware every Saturday morning…on our way to go fishing or hunting (his perogative). The men would sit around the coffee pot in the back and catch up (gossip if you really want to know). We also bought our fishing licenses from the same back area of the hardware store. Since I had to find something to do with idle time whilst my dad shot the breeze with his cronies, I wandered the aisles looking at all the different products for sale. I believe this is where it all began.

Today, I am probably more at home in a hardware / home improvement store than in a major department store.

But that may not be the case for you.

Just like grocery stores, hardware and home improvement stores have your basic categories of products.  Since every store is different, in order to navigate the store, and become comfortable with it, I recommend the following approach:

1 – set aside time to visit your local hardware / home improvement store WITHOUT BUYING ANYTHING. Allot 30 minutes to just meander through the store. Bring a notebook if you wish to write down any items you want to go back to look at.

2 – walk around the perimeter of the store first — for home improvement stores, that usually means large lumber/building supplies on one end, and garden center/outdoor items on the other end of the store. Hardware stores are usually different and Ace is the only one I have been in for years and they have it sectioned off a little differently. Let’s stick with your Home Depots and Lowes.

3 – in the center of the store is usually where you find appliances and kitchen cabinetry – maybe this is because you are stuck in the middle of the store and its the least likely inventory to move or change? I don’t know but I do know that if I walk into either of these stores, I’m going to find appliances in the heart of the store.

4 – bathrooms…very important…always at the very back of the store and usually towards one of the corners of the store – rarely in the middle of the back of the store. This is always key location for me to identify since with all that walking around, I’m bound to visit this spot at some point in my trip.

5 – tool corral – also known as where the POWER TOOLS are located! Okay, so this is an awesome place for me to dream. Don’t be intimidated by the tool corral area (some stores might have it closed off with only one entrance since the tools are pricey). Usually there are dedicated staff for these areas due to the expense of the items (monitoring the tools), so feel free to ask questions! I have never asked a question in the tool corral section where I was made to feel stupid or inferior in any way.

6 – Paint section – there are usually cans of paint that people have returned and I have found some decent colors. Keep in mind that the store clerk has to add a color to the paint so it may be an unusual shade. That worked well for me on a master bedroom project I did – found 3 gallons of paint for $5 – can’t beat that price! Usually the person who works in the section has knowledge about paint. Most stores now have idea areas where you can place the paint sample you like into a lighted box and see how it would look in different types of light. Remember that paint color is affected by the light source and types of light – the pigmentation reacts to outside light sources.

7 – cleaning supplies – bet you didn’t know that you can find MOST of your home cleaning supplies now in home improvement stores! I was at one of the Home Depots near me earlier this week (surprise!) and noticed that they moved the cleaning supplies from over near the grills / outdoor garden equipment to the MAIN AISLE when you enter the store – great product placement! Especially if you never knew they had these items.

This is enough to get you started on exploring your local home improvement store. Since this is one of my favorite places to shop, I will stop here for today’s post. I hope you feel less intimidated by these stores and look for more specific information on specific sections of these stores in future posts.

Dewalt drill
Power Tools

Mother’s Day & Power Drills

This year for Mother’s Day, I asked my hubs to give me a new cordless drill…yes I did indeed. I have a corded drill but became spoiled by the cordless drill my hubs brought to our marriage. The batteries no longer took a charge and when I researched buying new batteries, the cost of a new, and more powerful drill, was only about $30 more.

We were having dinner out when the subject of Mother’s Day came up. I told him I knew exactly what I wanted and using the Home Depot app on my phone, I went to their app, found the Dewalt cordless drill I wanted, and sent him the information. Easiest gift to buy ever, right?

Hubs went on his drill buying mission the day before Mother’s Day. He went to Home Depot where the app said they had the drill in stock. They did not. He went to the front desk and asked about the drill. Apparently the app and the store stock were not in sync and it was nowhere to be found at any local Home Depots. Now please know that my hubs does not like going to Home Depot. He refers to it as my “mecca” since I go there all the time and have most of the local ones store layout memorized. He, on the other hand, does not enjoy shopping there.

What is he going to do? Day before Mother’s Day and no drill to be found. He’s such a smart guy! He downloaded the Lowe’s app onto his iPhone and looked up the drill and what store they had it at. They had the exact same one not too far away. He drove to the Lowe’s and got my drill. But it gets even better. Lowe’s advertises that no one will beat their price. Hubs shows the sales clerk the Home Depot app price and BINGO! He gets the drill for the same sale price but at Lowe’s. Awesome job hubs!!!

The funny part to this story, besides the fact that I can envision my hubs walking around TWO home stores, which is just plain funny to begin with, but when he goes to buy my Mother’s Day card after acquiring the drill, the cashier asks him, “so what did you buy your wife for Mother’s Day?” He told her. Oh lawd did he get a talking to about a drill not being the right gift to buy his wife…on and on…he even told them that I ASKED SPECIFICALLY for a new drill and had given him the specs on it. They let him off the hook, but he did get the “oh no you didn’t!” lecture regardless.

That made my new drill the BEST Mother’s Day gift ever – because of the story behind it 🙂

paint can

Painting 101

So my daughter and her hubs have bought their first home. Lots of phone calls between us have taken place but the BEST call yet came today. “Mom, paint is mean.” Huh? I replied, “Paint does not have an emotion.” To which she responded, “No but it can be mean.” Okay then…so tell me more. She proceeded to tell me about the nature of paint – specifically how it changes color/hue depending upon lighting. Because of this, it is hard to tell what color will look good in what space. Ah, now I get her comment.

Here are some basic tips on painting any room in your home. These are my tips and I am not a professional painter, however, I have used a paintbrush since the age of 4 🙂

Tip 1:

The pigmentation in the paint will change its appearance based upon the amount of light it receives + the type of light + the disbursement of the light. Example, I painted my closet recently (see my post on the closet redesign I did). The closet is 5 foot x 5 foot – nice square closet with only a single bulb light fixture. Due to there being NO OTHER LIGHT source, and the closed nature of the space, the first color I picked, purchased and painted was way too dark for the space. There was no disbursement of color – just pure concentration of color. Ewww. Yuck. I went back to the paint store and purchased the same color family but two shades lighter. It worked much better in the space.

Tip 2:

PRIMER PRIMER PRIMER. Primer is the MOST OVERLOOKED step in any painting process. Why? I don’t know but maybe it has to do with time and money. Usually people don’t think about the additional cost and time of adding primer as the first step in painting. I recommend priming a wall (or surface if painting cabinets) for the following reasons: a) it will stick to any type of base paint that might exist. Example, if you don’t know what type of paint is on your walls, it could possibly be oil based paint and latex paint is water based – oil and water do not mix – the new paint will peel right off the walls; b) if your wall has semigloss paint on it, a flat or matte finish paint will not adhere well to the semigloss paint; c) it creates a great base to paint on (artists used primed canvases before painting).

Tip 3:

Use latex based paints. I am not a fan of oil based paints. Just not a fan. End of story.

Tip 4:

Use more expensive paint. I use only Benjamin Moore paint. Yes it is ghastly expensive. However, it holds up a long time and looks fresh. I have scrubbed my walls between tenants 5 times and after 10 years, some of the walls are now looking like they could use a fresh touchup. 10 years — 5 times scrubbing walls and marks from tenants — that’s worth it to me!

Tip 5:

Use the low fume paint that is available these days – I prefer the term “not smelly” because if you don’t use this paint, be prepared to be HIGH as a kite from all your painting fumes!

Tip 6:

Home Depot sells some great painting tools to make cutting in and corners a breeze. I use the Shur line of edging pads, along with their corner pad/brushes.

Tip 7:

If you have a lot of rooms to paint, invest in these tools and get additional pads. I have a paint supply of multiple roller handles, small roller handles, and extension handles so that there is less climbing up and down ladders. I keep a stock of the roller refills on hand as well.

Tip 8:

Buy the heavy duty drop clothes…fore go the plastic ones. Why? Because it’s so easy to trip on the plastic ones. They’re great for covering up furniture, however, since I had the experience of stepping INTO my paint tray and splashing the paint all over my legs and the wall and the drop cloth, I have never regretted the expense of the heavy duty clothes. I was the only casualty in that mess!

Tip 9:

Okay, so this is a weird tip, but its my own: paint barefoot. Why do I paint barefoot? I can FEEL paint if I step on it and can wipe my foot off easily. I am also better aware of whats underfoot. Maybe those shoes that look like feet might work? Don’t know. But I have never worn shoes while painting. Just my own thing.

Tip 10:

Back to paint colors: pick out your color by looking at swatches in two lights – natural outside light and light in the location where you are painting. You may realize that you need to change the inside lighting and you will also see how the light plays on the paint pigmentation (back to where I started with my daughter’s phone call).

Lastly, ENJOY! You can always repaint if you don’t like how it looks. I love painting…I hope you enjoy it as well 🙂

Home Repair

Making Returns on Home Repair Items

Since I started making home repairs and doing projects around the home (let’s date that back to my teenage years – so the late 70s, ahem), a lot has changed regarding the ease of making returns when we never use a product we purchased…

Wait a minute…you’ve never done that? Are you kidding me? Well let me tell you about me…

In recently cleaning out all the tubs of “stuff” in my utility room, I came across an inordinate amount of unopened items…you know the stuff you buy when you’ve got this GREAT idea for a home project…and it never happens…yeah, that’s me too. I gathered all the items together and had a flash of genius! What if I scanned each item to see if it existed in the Home Depot iOS app on my phone? Sure enough, the majority of the items did turn out to be Home Depot items and that meant I could return them, without a receipt, and get a gift card in exchange. How cool is that? Times are a changing.

What about the items that didn’t scan? (btw – the app pops up an “oops” message if it can’t find it in stock in Home Depot). For those item, I used a barcode scanner app also on my iPhone and most of the products are listed on amazon. If it says more than one product seller found, you can click on it and it will list the sellers. That is how I found out that two of my items came from Target and Walmart – not Home Depot.

Out of all the items I gathered together – and there were a LOT of items – I was able to return to Home Depot all but 4 items. To the tune of almost $300 in store gift card. Seriously? Sweet!!! Of course I will reuse those funds for other projects that I will hopefully actually complete 🙂

Don’t be afraid to scan away at any unopened/still in package items you find around your home that you are not going to use. Heck, go to yard sales and scan any items you find there!!! Take them back. The worst that any store can say is “no” but today, the few “no’s” outweighed the monies I recovered.

closet redesign
Closet Organizing Systems

Closet Organizer Systems

There are not that many choices when it comes to AFFORDABLE closet organizer systems. I cannot afford California Closets and God bless ’em! I know that they do a fantastic job, however, that would be an over-improvement for my home / neighborhood / house sales price range.

So I settled on wire shelving systems using parts from ClosetMaid. I have installed closet systems in four different homes I have lived in over the last 20 years. When I first used ClosetMaid, the only choice were LOTS of brackets in the walls and supports for each shelf. Its nice that times have changed! A little competition from the Container Store and their hang track system have upped the game.

(Let me add that the Container Store is a great place to gather ideas. I just cannot afford their materials on my budget. Again, thinking of the resale value in the future – I just don’t see the ROI there for justifying double to triple the materials costs vs. ClosetMaid.)

IKEA has jumped on the closet organizer system bandwagon recently. I have yet to go to the IKEA store to check out the system, so when I do, that will have to be another post 🙂

Back to ClosetMaid…here’s the cool thing…there are websites like that sell the CM parts for about half the price of purchasing from HomeDepot or directly from ClosetMaid. If you don’t like the look of the wire shelving, you can now add wood looking trim to the front of the wiring shelves to give it a more finished look. Frankly, I haven’t done that since I like being able to reconfig my closet on a whim — the idea of hacksawing (sp?) wood trim that’s cut to fit, then rearranging, and having to start over is not worth the headache. (If I find that after a few months I am no longer rearranging shelves and such, I may then choose to add the wood looking trim.)

ClosetMaid has also introduced a titanium grayish looking product line. I decided that the price differential was not worth it…again thinking of my buyer market and what would matter to them.

The cost for materials (online purchase plus last minute purchases at Home Depot) has run me about $400 for a 5FT x 5FT walk in closet. Not too shabby! I like the finished design – had an interim “finished” until I was able to finish the installation today. I also painted the inside of the closet and had MAJOR wall repairs that needed to be made.

It took a bit longer than I expected, however, the outcome was worth the delays 🙂

closet redesign

BEFORE: Hubs side of closet

closet redesign

BEFORE: my side of closet

closet redesign

BEFORE: my side of closet

closet redesign

BEFORE: my side of closet upper shelf

closet redesign

BEFORE: hubs side of closet (Esther photo bombed this pic!)

closetmaid hangtracks picture 1

IN PROCESS: Hubs side of closet and back wall with hangtracks and standards in place

closetmaid hang tracks

IN PROCESS: hang tracks and standards on my side of closet and back wall

clothes rack

IN PROCESS: purchased a garment rack to hold our clothes

upper shelving and clothes rack in place

IN PROCESS: upper shelves and closet rods in place

closet organizer system

AFTER: My shoe shelves

closetmaid lower hang

AFTER: Lower hang section of closet organizer system

closetmaid organizer shelves

AFTER: Hubs shoe shelves

finished closet redesign

AFTER: the finished closet


Replacing floating flooring

I’m starting this blog with my first post being about replacing a floating floor (usually made of laminate, and popularly known as Pergo). The reason I picked this topic is because my daughter and her husband just bought their first home. They knew they needed to replace the flooring, however, until their phone call tonight, they didn’t understand some of the “behind the scenes” steps that they should take to ensure that their new floor doesn’t end up warping and with same issues as the flooring they are removing.

Here’s what I recommended for them to do:

1. Buy a wet/dry vac from home improvement store. Don’t ruin your good vacuum cleaner with all the debris that will need to be vacuumed up during a renovation (please note they are doing major renovations to their new home).

2. Pull up the existing floating floor – but take note of where the issues are on the subflooring (theirs is concrete) and mark it with a piece of chalk.

3. After all the dirt and such is vacuumed up, use a straight piece of lumber – a 2×4 – and lay it onto the floor on it’s side.  It has to be a nice long piece and needs to be straight. Why? Because it is going to identify any places that the concrete floor may not be level. If you have a gap underneath the lumber, then it will need to be filled. I recommended they check with the flooring material they are interested in purchasing to see what the specifications state on how much of a gap can exist. SIGNIFICANT DROPS IN THE SUBFLOOR MAY CAUSE WARPING AND SEPARATING OF FLOATING FLOORING.

4. They can either patch the floor to make it level or hire someone to do so.

5. Identify any stains on the subfloor. Water stains have a white edge to them from the minerals in the water. They are also a good identifier to look UP and see if there was any history of leaking from above the spot. If there were any animals living in the house, and there are stains on the subfloor, then spray with a pet enzyme, let dry, and paint over with kilz to block any odor from coming back up through the new flooring.

6. Once the floor is level all the way around, paint the concrete floor with some waterproofing paint. Just in case any moisture is wicking up through the concrete.

7. Purchase flooring that can be laid on concrete — this does make a difference and should be part of the product decision making process.

8. If your purchase didn’t include an installer, then either hire one or plan on doing the installation yourself.

9. Make sure you have the correct amount of underlayment/subfloor if necessary. If your new flooring is thin, it may need luan underneath it and not just concrete. I would rather spend additional money to have a sound subfloor than have issues in the future.

That’s it – well, sort of – but the key points here are that if the subfloor (concrete in this case) has stains, use that to identify where any problems in the ceiling may have occurred; make sure the floor is level before installing a new floor on top.