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7 Ways to Rid Your Home of Plumbing Problems

by Sean Hansen

Every house has plumbing issues here and there, but calling a plumber isn’t always the best bang for your buck. Here are 7 ways to eliminate plumbing problems that anyone can accomplish.

plumbing1. Keep the areas under your sink clean.

In order to fix leaks and the damage they can do to your home, you have to notice them first. This is almost impossible if the space under your kitchen sink is home to a hardware store’s worth of cleaners, sponges, and plastic bags from grocery stores. This also applies to your bathroom sinks and towels. Stop treating sink cabinets as long term storage, and start treating them like they’re designated maintenance space.  I promise that you’ll be able to find convenient and dedicated storage for all of the odds and ends kept under your sink.

2. Be Vigilant.

If an area under your sink feels damp then check it out. Ignoring what could be a major leak won’t do you any favors in the long run and could seriously damage other parts of your house.

3. Treat your equipment with respect.

A Garbage disposal isn’t a trash can, and sinks aren’t stray hair and grease storage bins.  When at all possible, put those items where they belong – in the trash. If you have to use your garbage disposal (no-one’s going to throw away 20 grains of rice or half an ounce of gristle), be sure to run hot water over it before, during, and after you turn it on.

4. Fixing clogged sink drains.

It isn’t normal for your bathroom sink to take 10 minutes to clear after having the stopper removed. 

The most likely culprit here is your P-trap.  Under your sink, there’s a vertical pipe that runs to a U-shaped Pipe. That U-pipe is your P-trap, and that’s what you’ll most likely have to clean. Place a bucket under the drain and remove the P-trap.  Clean the interior of the P-trap with a wire brush and run some hot water through it. Check the drain itself and other pipes to see if there’s any easy to clean debris there as well, while also taking care not to remove said pipes. When you’re finished, reconnect the P-trap, tighten both ends, and run some water through it to make sure there aren’t any leaks.

After you’re done cleaning out the traps, consider buying some drain filters. They’re cheap, catch a lot more junk, and will save you some time.  As an added bonus, you can also use these for showers and bathtubs. Just be sure to replace them as needed.

5. Running Toilet.

A toilet that keeps running long after it’s been flushed isn’t just annoying, it’s expensive and can waste in excess of 100 gallons a day. Typically, there are three common culprits:  the tank flap, faulty float position, or a defective refill valve. You can check for online tutorials to diagnose and fix any of these problems. The parts are cheap and the process itself is easy. I had literally just fixed a faulty float not five minutes before writing this article.

6. Dripping Faucets.

Fixing a dripping faucet is a little bit more delicate work than turning a screw on a float assembly, but it’s still within the realm of most DIYers.  The main issue here is that the assemblies themselves are a bit smaller and more intricate than a simple toilet mechanism. Delta and other manufacturers have all published diagnostic and repair guides on their respective websites. Take a look and decide if you think you can pull it off. If not, call a professional.

7. When to leave it to the experts.

A majority of the things we’ve listed are things that most people can do with a little bit of time, research, and effort. That being said, the majority of your plumbing system is under the house or in the walls, and as a result, it’s invisible to you. While the fixes we’ve talked about here are fairly simple, there’s a reason calling a plumber can be expensive – they know what they’re doing.  Scheduling an inspection of your plumbing system can’t hurt anything, and if you’re uncomfortable about a diagnosis or feel like the guy might be trying to rip you off, then shop around. Be sure to also check consumer services to make sure you’re not being taken for a ride.

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Welcome Home: 3 Entry Door Options

By Joseph Truini

Image 1Installing a new entry door is a great way to improve the curb appeal of your home and create a warm, welcoming first impression for visitors. And while entry doors should certainly be attractive and architecturally interesting, they must also be resilient, weathertight and able to withstand exposure to the elements all year round.

If you’re interested in replacing your entryway door, you’ll first have to decide which type of door to purchase. Entry doors are readily available at home improvement centers in three different types: wood, steel and fiberglass.

All three types come in a wide range of sizes, styles and prices, so you won’t have any problem finding a door to fit into your budget and existing doorway. The more difficult decision is choosing which door type best suits your home, personal taste and lifestyle. To make that decision a bit easier, below you’ll find detailed descriptions of each door type, including benefits, drawbacks and important features to consider. 

Wood Doors
The natural beauty and warmth of wood is captured in this pre-finished mahogany door.

The natural beauty and warmth of wood is captured in this pre-finished mahogany door.

Wood doors are commonly available in a variety softwood and hardwood species, including fir, pine, hemlock, mahogany, oak, cherry and walnut. Most wood doors feature frame-and-panel construction, and can be ordered with or without “lites,” or windows.

Solid wood doors are constructed entirely out of solid pieces of wood. Veneered doors have a solid wood frame that’s covered with a wood veneer. Solid wood doors are often heavier and more expensive than a wood veneer door, but they’re also stronger and more durable.

Homeowners love wood doors because it’s hard to beat the natural beauty and warmth of real wood. Plus, they can be painted, stained or finished with a clear topcoat. However, wood requires a certain amount of maintenance to keep a fresh, like-new appearance.

When exposed to the elements, wood can swell, shrink, crack and warp. Paint and clear topcoats will eventually blister and peel. That’s why wood doors are best suited for recessed doorway openings, where the door is protected from the weather by a large overhang or deep alcove.

If you’re planning on painting your new wood door, order it with a factory-primed finish. That’ll save you the time and trouble of priming the door before painting. Also, it’s very important that you paint the entire door: top and bottom ends, left and right edges, and front and back surfaces. That’s the very best way to seal out moisture and deter warping.

Steel Doors
This steel entry door has a decorative glass panel and is available pre-finished in six paint colors.

This steel entry door has a decorative glass panel and is available pre-finished in six paint colors.

Steel doors are popular with homebuilders and homeowners alike, and it’s easy to see why: They are extremely strong and secure. They’re durable and weather-tight, especially when fitted with magnetic weather stripping. Generally speaking, steel doors are also the most affordable type of entry door.

Steel doors come primed ready for paint, but many home improvement centers now offer pre-finished steel doors in a wide choice of factory-applied paint colors. And while most steel doors have a smooth surface, some models feature an embossed wood-grain finish.

The two main drawbacks to steel are that it dents and rusts. You can fill dents with auto-body putty, but rust must be completely removed to prevent the corrosion from spreading. Scrape or sand away all the rust to expose bare steel. Then, apply a primer coat followed by two coats of paint.   

Fiberglass-Composite Doors
Don’t be fooled by its rich cherry wood finish. This resilient door is made of fiberglass.

Don’t be fooled by its rich cherry wood finish. This resilient door is made of fiberglass.

There’s no such thing as a maintenance-free door, but a fiberglass door comes pretty darn close. Fiberglass is extremely tough and resilient, and particularly well suited for harsh, humid climates. It’s also highly resistant to warping, splitting and cracking. Fiberglass doors won’t dent or rot.

Most fiberglass doors have a realistic wood grain texture that can be stained to resemble a wooden door. In fact, if you like the rich look of a solid mahogany door but not the price tag, buy a fiberglass door and apply a mahogany stain. If you’d rather paint your entry door, that’s fine, too: fiberglass accepts paint beautifully.

The main drawback to fiberglass doors is that they’re relatively expensive. Only high-end solid-hardwood doors cost more.

Door-Buying Tip: Sizing Matters

It’s easy to make mistakes when ordering new doors because of the somewhat confusing way that manufacturers specify door sizes. For example, a 36-inch door is sold as a 3-0 unit (pronounced three-oh), meaning that it’s 3 feet, 0 in. wide. A 2-8 door isn’t 28 in. wide; it’s 32 in. wide.

If you’re not paying close attention, it’s easy to order a 3-0 door for a 30-inch-wide opening, and then discover that the door is six inches too wide. Avoid these costly, time-consuming mistakes by double-checking the dimensions before ordering the door.

When shopping for entry doors, keep in mind that price is a good indicator of quality. A high-quality door will cost more, but it’ll last longer, perform better and be much more energy efficient.

No matter which door you choose, make sure it suits your home’s climate. It’s also important to practice regular maintenance in order to keep your new door looking its best.

As a home improvement expert, Joseph Truini provides great advice on all kinds of DIY projects.  Joe writes on a wide range of topics, from how to install a baseboard to replacing your front door. To see a selection of front entry door options, visit The Home Depot.

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Will Zero-Energy Homes Change the Future of Real Estate?

By Paige Tepping

While trends typically come and go, one that’s been getting a lot of attention lately is the concept surrounding the zero-energy home, a space that relies on exceptional energy conservation and on-site renewable energy to meet heating, cooling and energy needs. As the movement continues to push itself into the limelight—hoping for full-fledged adoption—it’s worth exploring a little more closely.

For those who may not be entirely up-to-speed with the zero-energy building concept, a lot of that may have to do with where you live, since zero-energy projects are typically concentrated on the East and West coasts. It’s also important to note that zero-energy construction is thriving in specific states and regions due to local policies, mandates and codes. But as cities and states throughout the country continue to adopt zero-energy policies (we’re looking at you, California) and solar costs continue to fall, the landscape may change dramatically over the next few years.

shutterstock_424381879

A lofty goal indeed, California has pledged to build all new residential buildings to zero-net-energy specifications by 2020. Taking green home building to a whole new level, these high-performance homes will produce as much energy as they consume, by incorporating a photovoltaic system (a linked collection of solar panels)—or other renewables—into the mix. With the majority of these homes still connected to the grid, any excess energy that’s accumulated throughout the day is fed back to the grid so that it can be used at night or on cloudy days.

Not only are zero-energy homes designed and built as energy-efficiently as possible, residents can look forward to zero energy bills—other than the monthly fee required to connect to the grid—and zero carbon emissions. While zero-energy homes look like any other home from the outside, their exterior walls tend to be thicker than those found in traditional homes. They also incorporate heating and cooling systems that are a lot more efficient than typical systems, affording homeowners the luxuries they would expect in a home today.

“The design and green features are what draw people in, and they stay because of the energy and cost savings,” says Ed Gorman, founder of Modus Development, the company behind MZ Townhomes—the first zero-energy housing project in Arizona. “It’s unfathomable to most people to have a home that doesn’t have an electric bill, not to mention it being eco-friendly and modern in its design.”

To get a sense as to where we stand today, according to a recent report released by the Net-Zero Energy Coalition (NZEC), nearly 6,200 housing units in the United States and Canada have been classified as zero-energy ready (a home that can supply at least 90 percent of its annual energy demand) or better. Zeroing in even further, just nine percent of the total residential units inventoried in NZEC’s report are classified as zero-energy (supplying 100 percent or more of the home’s annual energy demand). Net producers, which are capable of supplying 110 percent or more of a home’s energy demand, make up just four percent of the units in NZEC’s report.

As with any new movement that’s looking to catch on and alter the real estate landscape as we know it, all we can do is wait and see what the future brings. But according to Gorman, the future looks bright.

“We’ll see more and more builders moving into this space,” concludes Gorman. “People are tired of spending money on rising energy costs, and as a country, we’re trying to shed our dependence on foreign oil. Ironically, gas and oil prices have dropped over the past few years, but it hasn’t stopped the utilities from getting rate increases every year.”

All photos courtesy of Modus Development

This post was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. Check the blog daily for top real estate tips and trends.

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2016. All rights reserved.

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